Paquin v. Kay Mack, No. A10-1177.

Decision Date07 October 2010
Docket NumberNo. A10-1177.
Citation788 N.W.2d 899
PartiesGregory Wayne PAQUIN, Petitioner, v. Kay MACK, Beltrami County Auditor, Respondent.
CourtMinnesota Supreme Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED.

Syllabus by the Court

1. Because Minn.Stat. § 204B.07 (2008) requires a person signing a petition nominating a candidate for state or local office to write on the petition the signer's residence address, the County Auditor did not err in rejecting signatures on a nominating petition for which the only address provided was a post office box, city or township, and county.

2. Minnesota Statutes § 204B.10 (2008) does not require a county auditor to consult documents other than the nominating petition itself to confirm that a person signing a nominating petition is a resident of the election district for which the candidate is nominated.

3. Because 28 U.S.C. § 1360(a) (2006) does not bar assertion by the State of jurisdiction over activities of Native Americans “going beyond reservation boundaries,” and because running for state legislative office and the process of nominating a candidate for state legislative office are activities “going beyond reservation boundaries,” enforcement by the County Auditor of the residence address requirement of Minn.Stat. § 204B.07 did not violate federal law.

4. The County Auditor was not estopped from enforcing the residence address requirement of Minn.Stat. § 204B.07 by advice allegedly given to petitioner by the Secretary of State's office that, if given, was contrary to the language of the statute.

5. Comparison of voter registration information that lists a post office address for the voter with the County Auditor's rejection of nominating petition signatures that listed only a post office address does not establish a constitutional violation because different statutes govern voter registration and nominating petitions and because petitioner has made no showing that any difference in treatment is the product of intentional discrimination.

Gregory Wayne Paquin, Bemidji, Minnesota, pro se.

Timothy R. Faver, Beltrami County Attorney, Bemidji, Minnesota, for respondent.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The issue presented in this case is whether respondent Kay Mack, the Beltrami County Auditor, properly rejected a petition nominating petitioner Gregory Wayne Paquin as a candidate of the Minnesota Warriors for Justice Party for State Senator, Senate District 4. On June 1, 2010, Paquin filed a nominating petition bearing 557 signatures. County Auditor Mack rejected 210 of the signatures on the petition, 1 leaving Paquin 157 signatures short of the 500 signatures required for a valid nominating petition for Senate District 4. See Minn.Stat. § 204B.08, subd. 3 (2008) (requiring signatures on a nominating petition for legislative office to equal “ten percent of the total number of individuals voting in the ... legislative district at the last preceding state or county general election, or 500, whichever is less”).

On July 9, 2010, Paquin petitioned our court under Minn.Stat. § 204B.44 (2008) for an order requiring County Auditor Mack to accept the petition. Paquin challenged only the rejection of those signatures for which a post office box, but not a residence address, was provided. The court received a response opposing the petition from County Auditor Mack. We issued an order on August 16, 2010, denying the petition but on August 19 withdrew the order for further consideration of the matter. After further review, we issued a second order on August 24, 2010, denying the petition, with this opinion to follow.

I.

Candidates for partisan office who do not seek nomination by a major political party must be nominated by petition as provided in Minn.Stat. §§ 204B.07-.08 (2008). Minn.Stat. § 204B.03 (2008). Under Minn.Stat. § 204B.08, subds. 2, 3, nomination for legislative office requires the signatures of no more than 500 persons, each of whom must be eligible to vote for the candidate who is being nominated.

Minnesota Statutes § 204B.07 provides the format for nominating petitions. Each person signing a nominating petition must “write on the petition the signer's residence address including street and number, if any, and mailing address if different from residence address.” Id., subd. 4. The Secretary of State's office provides a form for use by those nominating candidates for office. The form includes columns labeled “Date,” “Year of Birth,” “Print First, Middle, and Last Name,” “Residence Address (number and street or box and route number),” “City or Township,” and “County.” Upon receipt of a nominating petition by the appropriate election official, the petition is to be inspected “to verify that there are a sufficient number of signatures of individuals whose residence address as shown on the petition is in the district where the candidate is to be nominated.” Minn.Stat. § 204B.10, subd. 3 (2008).

Of the 557 signatures on the nominating petition at issue here, the County Auditor's review concluded that 23 were signatures of individuals living outside of the legislative district; 17 were signatures for which an incomplete street address (or a defective street address) was provided; one signature included an address but it was illegible; and three signatures were defective for other reasons. Paquin does not contest the County Auditor's rejection of these 44 signatures.

Of the remaining 513 signatures, 166 signatures listed a post office box number in the column labeled “Residence Address.” 2 Paquin argues that respondent Mack should have determined from other sources the residence address of these signers. For example, Paquin suggests, respondent could have contacted the post office to determine the residence address of the holder of the indicated post office box, or could have reviewed voting records from previous elections to confirm that the signature on the petition belonged to someone living in the district. But Minn.Stat. § 204B.10, subd. 3, requires the inspection of a nominating petition “to verify that there are a sufficient number of signatures of individuals whose residence address as shown on the petition is in the district where the candidate is to be nominated.” (Emphasis added.) Nothing in section 204B.10 (2008) requires or even authorizes a county auditor (or the Secretary of State's office, if that is where the petition is filed) to consult other documents to confirm that the signer is a resident of the district. 3

Paquin also argues that the County Auditor erred by not considering the city or township and county information that signers of his nominating petition provided. The form for nominating petitions provided by the Secretary of State's office indicates the signer is to provide “Residence Address (number and street or box and route number); in adjacent columns, the form indicates that the signer is to provide “City or Township” and “County.” But the form does not clearly indicate that the city or township and county information requested of the signer must be the city or township and county of the signer's residence. It is possible that those signers of Paquin's nominating petition who provided only a post office box number in the “Residence Address” column then listed the city or township and county of their residence in the adjacent columns. But it is equally possible that signers who provided only a post office box number in the “Residence Address” column and then listed a city or township and county in the adjacent columns intended that information to convey the location of the post office where the signer maintains the post office box. 4 Indeed, the latter seems more likely, because the post office box number by itself, without the location of the post office, would be meaningless. Moreover, the form of the petition does not explicitly designate the “City or Township” and “County” columns as part of the residence address, 5 and none of the signers who entered information in those columns, after entering a post office box in the residence address column, designated the additional information as relating to their residence address.

Paquin has the burden to prove that leaving his name off the ballot is an error that must be corrected under Minn.Stat. § 204B.44. See, e.g., Lundquist v. Leonard, 652 N.W.2d 33, 36 (Minn.2002); Olson v. Zuehlke, 652 N.W.2d 37, 40 (Minn.2002). Paquin cannot meet this burden unless he shows that the petition signers whose signatures were rejected for lack of a residence address provided information on the petition sufficient to establish that the signer lived within the legislative district. See Minn.Stat. § 204B.08, subd. 2 (noting that signatures must be from people who are eligible to vote in the legislative district). The fact that some signers listed post office box information does not meet this burden because there is no requirement that a post office box in a particular post office be rented only by someone living in the area served by that post office. A post office box therefore provides no information about the location of the box renter's residence. Moreover, Paquin has not provided any other evidence from any signers of his nominating petition who listed a post office box, rather than a street address, attesting that he or she intended the city or township and county listed on the petition to convey their residence address. See Minn.Stat. § 204B.07, subd. 4 (noting that “the signer shall write on the petition the signer's residence address”). On this record, we conclude that Paquin has not met his burden to prove that Mack erred or violated Minn.Stat. § 204B.10 in rejecting the signatures of those who listed only a post office box in the residence address column of the nominating petition forms.

Combined with the County Auditor's rejection of 44 signatures for other reasons, which Paquin does not contest here, the rejection of 166 signatures for which a post office box number was provided, rather than a street address, leaves...

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