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Abdurrahman v. Dayton

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

December 23, 2016

Muhammad Abdurrahman, Plaintiff,
Mark Dayton, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Minnesota, Lori Swanson, in her official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Minnesota, and Steve Simon, in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Minnesota, Defendants.


          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Muhammad Abdurrahman's Motion for Temporary Restraining Order (“TRO”). All parties were present at the hearing. The Court will therefore consider the Motion as one for a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. For the following reasons, the Motion is denied and the case is dismissed with prejudice.


         On August 11, 2016, Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor (“DFL”) Party nominated Muhammad Abdurrahman as an elector to vote for President and Vice President of the United States. (Compl. (Docket No. 1) at ¶ 32.) In accepting this nomination, Abdurrahman pledged to mark his ballot “for the nominees for those offices of the party that nominated me.” Minn. Stat. § 208.43. At that time, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine had already accepted the Democratic Party's nominations for President and Vice President. Abdurrahman eventually became an elector after Clinton and Kaine won the popular vote in Minnesota following the general election on November 8. (Compl. at ¶ 34.)

         On December 19, instead of abiding by his pledge, Abdurrahman presented a ballot nominating Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for President and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard for Vice President. (Id. at ¶ 37.) Pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 208.46, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon refused to accept and count Abdurrahman's ballot, deemed Abdurrahman to have vacated the office of elector, and appointed an alternate elector who subsequently voted for Clinton and Kaine. (Id. at ¶ 38, 39.)

         That same day, Abdurrahman filed this lawsuit alleging that Secretary Simon, Governor Mark Dayton, and Attorney General Lori Swanson unconstitutionally denied him his right to vote for a candidate of his choosing. Abdurrahman seeks a preliminary injunction precluding Defendants from transmitting the electors' ballots to Washington D.C. and requiring them to accept, count, certify, and submit his ballot to the President of the Senate. (Id. at 13-14.)

         On December 20, the Office of the Secretary of State transmitted the ballots to the President of the Senate and National Archivist. (Black Aff. (Docket No. 20) at ¶ 16.) Those parties received them the next day. (Id. at Ex. 8.)


         A. Mootness

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The Constitution confines the federal courts to adjudicating actual “cases” or “controversies” U.S. Const. art. III § 2, cl. 1. An actual case or controversy must endure throughout all stages of the litigation otherwise the claim becomes moot and must be dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Genesis Healthcare Corp. v. Symczyk, 133 S.Ct. 1523, 1528 (2013).

         Abdurrahman seeks a preliminary injunction preventing Secretary Simon from transmitting the electoral ballots cast on December 19 to the President of the Senate. But the ballots have already been transmitted to the President of the Senate. (See Black Aff. Ex. 7.) Abdurrahman's claim is therefore moot.

         Abdurrahman argues that this case falls within an exception to the mootness doctrine for wrongs “capable of repetition, yet evading review.” Fed. Election Comm'n v. Wisconsin Right to Life, Inc., 551 U.S. 449, 462 (2007) (citation omitted). The Court disagrees. This exception applies only where (1) the challenged action's duration is too short to be fully litigated before expiration and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again. Id. (quotation and citation omitted). Abdurrahman meets the exception's first requirement, but not the second.

         The time between November 9, when Abdurrahman first knew he would be an elector, and December 20, the day Secretary Simon transmitted the electors' ballots without Abdurrahman's ballot, is clearly too short of a time period for this case to be fully litigated. In fact, cases involving election issues “are among those most frequently saved from mootness by this exception.” Van Bergen v. State of Minn., 59 F.3d 1541, 1547 (8th Cir. 1995) (collecting cases). But for Abdurrahman to meet the exception's second requirement he must again (1) be nominated as an elector by the DFL; (2) during an election when the Democratic Party's nominee wins the Minnesota popular vote; and (3) ignore his pledge and vote for someone other than the Democratic Party's nominee. It is especially unlikely that Abdurrahman could complete the first prerequisite now that he has identified himself as an elector who will ignore his pledge to vote for the Democratic Party's nominee. And although it is theoretically possible Abdurrahman could complete all three prerequisites, a “theoretical possibility is insufficient to overcome the jurisdictional hurdle of mootness.” Id.

         B. ...

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