You may not have noticed, but this — Tuesday, May 17 — is opening day in Minnesota.
No, it’s not the baseball season, which started six weeks ago, although the St. Paul Saints begin their season Thursday. Nor is it the fishing season, which got underway last weekend.
It’s the beginning of the period for independent candidates to file for elective office for the elections this fall. Ordinarily, this event passes without anyone caring much. But this time around, the rumblings of a potential third-party candidacy for president, supported by Republicans disaffected with Donald Trump as the party’s presumptive nominee, has brought attention to it.
The likelihood of anyone mounting a plausible campaign, let alone a successful one, is slim. The opportunity to even get on the ballot for November has passed in many states. Even if one qualifies, the candidate faces long odds, probably even greater than the 5,000-to-1 long shot that happened to win the English professional soccer league championship last month. Any such candidate, many Republicans bemoan, would divert away votes that would assure the Democratic candidate, probably Hillary Clinton, the election.
But, just in case, an independent can begin the process now. It’s a short season for qualifying in Minnesota — just two weeks. It begins today, and the window closes at the end of this month.
There are other alternatives for an aspiring third-party candidate. Trying to latch on to one of the existing minor parties is one, but it is of little appeal to prospective candidates or the parties they might try to hijack. A write-in campaign also is possible and lacks the urgency of the two-week filing period, provided that the candidate files a written request with the secretary of state seven days before the election to have the votes tallied.
The ballot-access laws in Minnesota assure candidates of state-recognized parties — the DFL and the Republicans, of course, and a smattering of minor parties from time to time — their places on the November ballots. But for others, like the potential Republican-turned-independent, the process is more difficult. They must obtain the signatures and submit a nominating petition to the secretary of state containing signatures of at least 2,000 Minnesotans who would be eligible to vote this fall. The laws lay out very specific — and somewhat rigid — requirements, mandating that the petitions be printed on paper measuring no more than 8½ inches wide and 14 inches long, with the text printed in at least 10-point typeface and limited to 10 names per page.
The signatories also must include their printed names, years of birth, and address, along with the date of signing, which must be within the two-week filing period. While the signatures need not be notarized, they must be signed under oath inscribed in the body of the document.
The petitions also must include the candidate’s political party, which may state “Independent.” But if the candidate has not chosen a party, the nominating petition may identify the “political principle” espoused by the erstwhile office-seeker.
How about “Never Trump”?
Marshall H. Tanick is a Twin Cities attorney.