Controversial Ballot Decision Upheld in Neb.

     LINCOLN, Neb. (CN) – A decision to allow for a switch in Republican candidates for Nebraska lieutenant governor nine days after a deadline for certifying the statewide ballot has been upheld by a county district court.
     Judge Lori A. Maret held she could not order Nebraska Secretary of State John Gale to reverse his decision because state statute provided him with no clear legal duty to refuse the request.
     The controversy arose in the wake of a scandal that enveloped former Lt. Gov. Lavon Heidemann, who resigned September 9 after a judge granted his sister’s request for a domestic abuse protect order against him.
     Following Heidemann’s resignation, the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts requested that Gale substitute Mike Foley as the candidate for lieutenant governor.
     The request came after the September 1 deadline to make changes to the November ballot, but Gale decided Ricketts’ constitutional right to name his own running mate trumped state law.
     With that, the Libertarian candidate for governor, Mark Elworth, Jr., sued, claiming Gale violated state law and that Heidemann’s name should remain on the ballot.
     According to Elworth’s complaint, state law requires that all candidates be certified to appear on the ballot by Sept. 1, and that “no declination shall be effective after such date.” Elworth also sought an injunction that would bar the new Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Michael Foley, from being certified for the ballot, as his name was also submitted after the deadline.
     After hearing arguments from both parties, as well as a representative of the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Ricketts, Judge Maret issued ruled that Gale “has no clear legal duty that is subject to mandamus.”
     In a motion submitted to the court, the Ricketts campaign argued that the Nebraska constitution requires each candidate for governor to choose a running mate, and that this “constitutional prerogative” overrides Elworth’s claims. The motion further stated that printing the name of a candidate who is no longer running for office on ballots “would also withhold vital information from the voters and would result in voter confusion.”
     In a statement following the dismissal, Ricketts reiterated that the state constitution gives “gubernatorial candidates the right to designate their running mates” and that ballots should be “printed in a manner that accurately reflects the choices before Nebraska voters.”

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