The liberal-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court placed Democratic Congressman Dean Phillips on the Democratic presidential primary ballot on Friday, overruling attempts by the state Democratic Party, backed by Gov. Tony Evers, to prevent state voters from having the right to vote for the Minnesota congressman.
In a rare unanimous decision on February 1, the court found that the selection committee abused its discretion when it improperly left Phillips off the ballot after an approximately five-minute meeting, at the request of the state Democratic Party Chairman.
Evers made it very clear that he wanted Wisconsin voters prevented from being able to choose Phillips, telling reporters before the court decision that Phillips’ appeal was a “distraction” that he couldn’t believe was “going forward. That seems ridiculous to me.”
Far from ridiculous, some Wisconsin voters presumably want the opportunity to vote for Phillips. The divided court united in agreeing they should have that opportunity.
Phillips is a Democratic congressman from Minnesota. He is a gold star son who lost his father in the Vietnam War. He ran a family business before he was elected to Congress. Phillips received almost 20% of the vote in the New Hampshire primary, although President Joe Biden was a write-in during that contest.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the selection committee’s “failure to exercise at all the discretion conferred upon it by statute constitutes an abuse of that discretion.”
During the selection committee meeting, the chairs of both major political parties submit names of candidates they want to appear on their party’s presidential primary ballot. The Republican Party submitted six primary candidates, but the state Democratic Party chair only submitted President Joe Biden’s name, leaving off Phillips and Marianne Williamson.
“Voters should choose the nominee of our party without insiders trying to rig the process for Joe Biden,” Phillips told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Because there is not enough time to remand the decision to the committee, the court opted instead to “direct that the name of Dean Phillips be placed on the 2024 Democratic presidential preference primary ballot as a candidate for the office of president of the United States.”
The court confirmed that the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin “listed only the name of Joseph Biden to be placed on the Democratic presidential preference primary ballot. Without any discussion, the Selection Committee unanimously adopted a motion to place the names submitted by the party chairs on the ballot.”
The committee also includes “a number of legislative leaders (or their designees), a number of political party representatives, and an additional member chosen by other members to serve as the chair of the Selection Committee,” the decision says.
“The statute assigns one task to the Selection Committee —— to determine which candidates have candidacies that are ‘generally advocated or recognized in the national news media throughout the United States’ (the media advocacy or recognition standard),” the court’s decision says. The Supreme Court ruled that Phillips met that standard.