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Melendez v. O'Connor

December 19, 2002

BRIAN MELENDEZ, ET AL., PETITIONERS,
v.
PATRICK H. O'CONNOR, RESPONDENT,



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Candidate for state representative was not prejudiced by the timing of a petition challenging his eligibility to run for office in a specific legislative district and therefore the doctrine of laches does not require dismissal of the petition.

Candidate for state representative was not eligible to run for the state legislature from a specific legislative district when he moved out of the district during the six-month period preceding the general election and did not identify any locations within the district where he maintained a physical presence and where he intended to reside throughout the six-month period.

Petition granted.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Concurring, Gilbert, J.

Took no part, Page, J., and Hanson, J.

Michelle D. DesJardin, Clerk of Appellate Courts Respondent.

OPINION

Petitioners Brian Melendez and Ruth Stein filed a petition under Minn. Stat. §á204B.44 (2002) alleging that respondents, the Hennepin County Auditor/Treasurer and the Hennepin County Elections Manager, were about to commit an error in the preparation of the ballot for legislative district 59B by including Jason Samuels' name for the office of state representative. Petitioners alleged that Samuels had not resided in district 59B for the six months immediately preceding the November 5, 2002 election as required by Minn. Const. art. IV, § 6. Because there were no relevant facts in dispute, we did not appoint a referee. We issued an order granting the petition on October 15, 2002, and this opinion confirms that order.

Before June 1, 2002, Jason Samuels resided at 1206 Fourth Street Southeast, Minneapolis, which is located within legislative district 59B. On June 1, Samuels moved to 627 Pierce Street Northeast, Minneapolis. Before he moved, Samuels attempted to verify that the Pierce Street address was located within the boundaries of legislative district 59B. He did so by checking the Secretary of State's official website. According to the Director of the Election Division of the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, between March 22 and August 20, 2002, the secretary's website contained a disclaimer stating that information on the website regarding polling locations might not be current and would be updated later due to legislative redistricting ordered by this court in March 2002. The record does not indicate whether Samuels was aware of this disclaimer. Nonetheless, after visiting the website, Samuels concluded that the Pierce Street address was within district 59B.

On July 16, 2002, Samuels filed to run for state representative for legislative district 59B. In his affidavit of candidacy, which was a form provided by the Secretary of State, Samuels listed the Pierce Street address as his legal residence. The form affidavit required a candidate running for state senator or state representative to swear or affirm that he or she "will be a resident of Minnesota at least one year and of this district for six months on the day of the general * * * election."

On August 18, 2002, Samuels discovered that the Secretary of State's website had been updated for redistricting and that his Pierce Street address was actually located in another legislative district—district 59A. Three days later, he sent an e-mail message to several parties, including the Election Division Director of the Secretary of State. In the e-mail, he explained his situation and stated that he "verified the district of this address as best [he] could through the Secretary of State's website." He stated that he was prepared to immediately move to another address within the district, but, because of the expenses involved in moving, he wanted to know whether it would be "legally proper" for him to do so. He also stated:

I want my candidacy to be legitimate and in full accordance with the law. If I have inadvertently violated the law, and if moving again would not properly rectify my error, than [sic] I want to know what proper ...


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