Wisconsin election officials urge state Supreme Court to reject Phillips' effort to get on ballot

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips sued too late after being left off of Wisconsin's primary ballot and the state Supreme Court should reject his lawsuit, the state elections commission and a special bipartisan panel said Wednesday.

Phillips last week asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to order that his name be added to the primary ballot in the battleground state after he was excluded by the state’s top Democrats who only put President Joe Biden’s name on the April 2 primary ballot.

The bipartisan presidential selection committee that didn't forward his name in time, as well as the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told the Supreme Court in a joint response on Wednesday that Phillips waited too long.

“Phillips did nothing until the eleventh hour,” they said in their response filed with the court.

Since Jan. 2, Phillips know that his name had not been included as a candidate, but he didn't start a petition drive to get on the ballot as the law allows or file a lawsuit until Jan. 26, the filing noted.

The elections commission and presidential selection committee said that ballots must be mailed to military and overseas voters no later than Feb. 15 and to meet that deadline, county clerks need to begin drafting and distributing ballots “as soon as possible."

They asked the court to reject Phillips' lawsuit by Friday because after that “it will become increasingly difficult each day for the clerks to feasibly get the ballots ready, delivered, and mailed on time."

The joint group said that Phillips' arguments should be dismissed because he had a recourse to gather 8,000 signatures to get on the ballot but didn't. They also argued that Phillips has no standing to bring the challenge because the presidential selection committee has the sole discretion to decide who gets on the ballot.

They further argued that because of that sole discretion given to the committee, the court has no role to play in deciding who it should have placed on the ballot.

Phillips, who represents neighboring Minnesota in Congress, is running a longshot bid to defeat Biden. He is the only Democrat in elected office who is challenging Biden.

In Phillips' lawsuit, he argues that his request to be put on the ballot was illegally ignored by the Wisconsin Presidential Preference Selection Committee, which is comprised of Republican and Democratic leaders who bring forward names for the ballot, and the Wisconsin Election Commission.

Phillips argued that he met the test in Wisconsin law for gaining ballot access that says a candidate must be “generally advocated or recognized in the national news media.”

The committee put Biden, former President Donald Trump and five other Republican challengers, including four who have since ceased campaigning, on the ballot.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission traditionally just accepts the recommendations from party leaders that come forward through the presidential selection committee.

Phillips had no comment Wednesday on the response to his lawsuit.

“As we fight Trump’s attacks on democracy we must also be vigilant against efforts by people in our own Party to do the same,” Phillips said in a statement Monday. “Voters should choose the nominee of our Party without insiders trying to rig the process for Joe Biden.”

Biden easily won last week’s New Hampshire primary as a write-in candidate, with Phillips getting about 20% of the vote. Phillips has been certified to appear on the primary ballot in other states.