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Wisconsin Supreme Court gets involved in Dean Phillips fight with Democrats

The Wisconsin Supreme Court asked a state elections board Monday to respond this week to Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips’s claim that he has been unlawfully left off the state’s April 2 primary ballot.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission and the Wisconsin Presidential Preference Selection Committee, acting on the recommendation of the state Democratic Party leaders, listed President Biden as the only Democratic candidate for the state’s primary after a meeting at the start of the year.

The campaign of Phillips, a congressman from Minnesota, cried foul, accusing the state party of forcing him to spend about $300,000 to collect signatures through a separate process to acquire ballot access.

Phillips filed a complaint last week that asked the state’s Supreme Court to overrule his exclusion based on a provision of state election law that allows ballot access for candidates who are found to have been recognized as serious contenders by the news media. Phillips argued in his brief that the state elections board failed to make any determination of whether Phillips met this test, despite significant news coverage of his candidacy.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court asked Monday for the state board and any interested third parties to respond to Phillips’s claims by Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Democratic Party declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, which by tradition accepts the recommendation of state party leaders for primary ballots, also declined to comment.

Phillips, the only elected Democrat challenging Biden for the nomination, finished with about 20 percent of the vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, while Biden, who did not appear by name on the ballot, received 64 percent of the vote through a write-in campaign.

Phillips has vowed to continue his primary campaign in South Carolina, which holds its Democratic primary on Saturday, and Michigan, which votes on Feb. 27. Phillips will not appear on the Feb. 6 Nevada primary ballot because he missed the qualification date.

The Democratic presidential campaign of author Marianne Williamson has also complained about being left off the state ballots.

Jeff Weaver, a senior adviser to Phillips, said in an affidavit filed in the Wisconsin case that he had contacted state party chair Ben Wikler to discuss ballot access on Dec. 2. Weaver said he later spoke with the executive director of the state party, Cassi Fenili. Neither committed to adding Phillips’s name to the ballot.

“I don’t think anybody should be surprised about the way this process is working itself out,” one Wisconsin party official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the process, told The Post earlier this month. “It has always been the case with an incumbent in office.”

Democrats in four states — Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee — have named only Biden as a candidate on their state primary ballots. Tennessee, North Carolina and Wisconsin allow candidates to gain ballot access through a separate process of gathering petitions.

The Phillips campaign has separately filed a complaint with the Democratic National Committee about the Florida Democratic Party’s decision, which essentially canceled that state’s Democratic primary.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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