On Friday morning, Indiana’s four-member bi-partisan election commission voted unanimously to take Al Manns off November’s general election list of certified candidates for Monroe County circuit court judge.
Manns had filed as a Green Party write-in candidate for the Division 1 seat, after losing the Democratic Party’s June 2 primary to Geoff Bradley.
It was his loss in the Democratic Primary that led the party to challenge Manns as a certified write-in candidate, because he had failed to win the party’s nomination for that same seat in June.
For its challenge, the Democratic Party was relying on a state law commonly known as the “sore loser” law. [IC-3-8-1-5.5] The statute says that if someone loses a primary election, they’re not able to be a candidate for the same office in the next general election.
So a week ago, Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jennifer Crossley challenged the write-in candidacy that Manns wanted to mount.
Crossley and Manns both participated in Friday morning’s hearing of the challenge, after being sworn in by Matthew Kochevar, who is co-counsel for the state’s election division.
Under the procedure that election commission chair Paul Okeson, a Republican, outlined before the hearing started, it was Crossley who went first.
Crossley told the commission, “It was brought to our attention, when we looked at the election website, that Mr. Manns decided that he wanted to be a write-in candidate for the same seat that he was defeated in. And according to the Indiana law …it does say that Mr. Manns is not eligible to become a candidate for the same seat as he was defeated in.”
Crossley said the action was not being taken because it is Manns who wants to be a write-in candidate. The party would do the same thing if it were Bradley who had lost the primary and was trying to be a write-in candidate, she said. Crossley summed up by saying, “This is just simply us going off of the facts provided by the law …that this is something that he simply cannot do.”
In the June 2 Democratic Party primary, Bradley had 62.3 percent (10,740) of the vote compared to 37.7 percent (6,507) for Manns. The Republican Party primary was uncontested. Carl Lamb will appear on the ballot for the GOP in that judge’s race.
For his part, Manns started off by saying, “I have no quarrel with the Democratic Party.” He added, “There are always internal disagreements and things of that nature. But I have no quarrel that would justify me taking a position against the party and challenging the current nominee for the office of the judge’s seat.”
Manns said he was given a call by members of the Green Party. And they expressed an interest in him representing the party. Manns said he found the policies of the Green Party “not inconsistent with the matters of interest to the Democratic Party.” So he’d decided to go ahead and file a petition as a write-in, he said.
About the so-called “sore-loser law,” Manns said that given the way the system works, those who don’t wish to belong to the Democratic Party are not able to vote for a candidate they’d like to support—if that candidate is running in the Democratic Party’s primary.
Manns alluded to the possibility that the state law is an infringement of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Manns said there might be a candidate that someone would like to support, but they can’t vote for that candidate, when it’s a candidate from a party they don’t want to join. They’re precluded from voting for their preferred candidate by the primary election process, Manns said.
Election commission vice chair Anthony Long, a Democrat, asked Manns about the application of the state law to his situation: “Assuming that it is completely valid and constitutional, do you believe it would prevent your candidacy?”
Manns answered: “I believe that the way the rule is written, yes, it would.”
Long thanked and applauded Manns for running. “That’s a big step to do and we appreciate people running in whatever party they’re in,” Long said.
But Long said the statute applied to Manns and made a motion to sustain the Democratic Party’s challenge.
The vote was 4–0.
Okeson wrapped up: “The challenge is upheld. The election division is now directed not to include Mr. Manns on the certified list of general election candidates sent to the county election boards and to indicate that any write-in votes for this candidate will not be counted.”
If a race has a certified write-in candidate, the ballot has to include a write-in blank for that race. Kochevar, the attorney for the election division, told The Square Beacon the that it’s the local county election board that decides exactly what the ballots look like.
Monroe County election supervisor Karen Wheeler told The Square Beacon that certain federal offices require a write-in blank. Other offices include a write-in blank only if there is a certified write-in candidate, Wheeler said.