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Frankenstein Seeks Delay for Manhart’s Response; SOS Barnett Dodges with Erroneous Technicalities; Both Ignore Facts of Manhart’s Illegal Candidacy

Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie serves the public by posting the responses of both recent Wisconsin immigrant Logan Manhart and Secretary of State Steve Barnett to candidate Steven McCleerey and the South Dakota Democratic Party’s lawsuit charging that Manhart’s too-recent voting residency in Wisconsin disqualifies him from running for Legislature this year.

The most important thing to note in these responses is that neither Manhart nor Secretary Barnett deny that Manhart’s voting in Wisconsin in April 2021 means he fails to meet the South Dakota Constitution’s requirement (Article 3 Section 3) that candidates for Legislature have resided in South Dakota for two years prior to the election in which they appear on the ballot. Manhart’s response is pure delay; Barnett’s response is pure technical distraction.

To get his Wisconsin cheese out of the wind, Manhart turns to GOP monster-lawyer Sara Frankenstein, and all she can come up with so far is delay. Plaintiffs filed their complaint May 16. Manhart was supposed to respond by last Thursday, May 26. Frankenstein asks the court for three more weeks, until June 16, to “accommodate his attorney’s scheduled vacation”:

Manhart recently hired undersigned counsel, whose schedule prohibits working on the matter until she returns from vacation. There is no reason to expedite this matter before the primary election as Manhart is not appearing on the primary ballot. This matter only involves Manhart’s appearance on the November general election ballot. Therefore, there is no prejudice to any of the parties in granting an extension to serve a Response to the Application for Writ of Prohibition [Sara Frankenstein, Logan Manhart’s Motion for Extension of Time to Serve Response to Application for Writ of Prohibition, McCleerey and SDDP v. State Canvassing Board and Barnett #32CIV22-000092, filed 2022.05.22].

Of course, if Manhart weren’t guilty of lying about his residency, it wouldn’t take 31 or 10 days to compose a response. But when the facts aren’t on your side—when you claim to have resided in South Dakota since November 2020 but vote in Wisconsin in April 2021 and thus have to choose between charges of petition fraud in South Dakota and voter fraud in Wisconsin—then, yeah, you might need more time to choose your legal smokescreen.

Republican Secretary of State Steve Barnett plays his part in the Republican smoke machine with his own obfuscatory response. Barnett claims that the court cannot issue a writ of prohibition to boot Manhart from the ballot because the plaintiffs can instead file an election contest under SDCL Chapter 12-22. Just like Governor Noem’s lackeys in the original challenge to Amendment A, Secretary Barnett appears not to understand what an election contest is… and this lack of understanding is particularly disturbing, given that it comes from South Dakota’s chief election official, the one man in South Dakota who should know more about elections and their legal and technical details than anyone else.

An election contest challenges the election process itself, the conduct of voting, and the counting of votes. As the South Dakota Supreme Court explained in a 2001 election contest, “Contestants must show not only voting irregularities, but also show those irregularities to be so egregious that the will of the voters was suppressed.”

There has been no voting in the District 1 House race. Even if Manhart and his ticketmate Rep. Tamara St. John had drawn a primary challenger and District 1 were going to the polls next Tuesday to pick two Republican nominees, or even if McCleerey had foolishly waited until after the general election to file his lawsuit, the challenge to Manhart’s residency and eligibility would not require demonstrating that Manhart’s brownshirts stuffed ballot boxes or that the Roberts, Day, Marshall, and Brown county auditors had miscounted ballots. McCleerey is not contesting the casting or counting of ballots; he is contesting a candidate’s qualification to appear on a ballot. That is not an election contest; that is a question of whether the candidate and the Secretary of State are following basic requirements of the South Dakota Constitution.

Secretary Barnett plies this false argument in an apparent attempt to  box out the challenge to Manhart’s candidacy. Barnett claims that McCleerey is contesting a primary election (even though there wasn’t one) and that SDCL 12-22-29 requires that contests to primary elections be filed within ten days after nomination for office. Manhart and St. John automatically became nominees back in early April when Barnett certified that no other Republican candidates had filed petitions for District 1 House, So Barnett’s logic would lead us to conclude that it is too late for McCleerey to file the primary contest that Barnett says McCleerey ought to file.

First, it is absurd to say that if evidence of illegal and disqualifying activity (in this case, Manhart’s false oath on his nominating petition comes to light more than ten days after a primary or a nomination but still well before the printing and casting of general election ballots, nobody can take action to remove that illegal candidate from the ballot.

Second, Barnett’s argument about primary contest timeframe applies only to actual primary elections. Barnett cites SDCL 12-22-29 to invoke the ten-day timeframe, but he ignores the conditions that set that clock ticking:

Any candidate for nomination to any elective office, or for election to any party position, whose name appears on the official primary election ballot of any political party may contest the primary election as to the office or position for which he was a candidate for nomination or election, by filing with the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which his nominating petition was filed, a complaint in writing within ten days after the returns have been canvassed by the county canvassing board or boards, setting forth the grounds of his contest, which complaint shall be verified by the complainant. The complainant shall give security for all costs. Authority and jurisdiction are hereby vested in the circuit court to hear and determine such contests [emphasis mine; SDCL 12-22-29].

This statute says the complaint for a primary contest goes to the county canvassing board. The statute assumes there are votes to count and that they are counted at the county level. The statute says nothing about candidates who have no primary challengers, do not appear on a primary ballot, and are automatically certified as nominees in the Secretary of State’s office in Pierre. Barnett can’t wish this lawsuit away as an untimely primary contest, because a plain reading of law says this is not a primary contest, or an election contest of any sort. There was no election to contest.

More importantly, neither Manhart nor Barnett nor anyone else has contested the central facts of this case: to qualify for the 2022 ballot, Manhart claimed he has resided in South Dakota since November 2020, but he used his Wisconsin residency to vote in the Wisconsin election in April 2021. Either Manhart broke the law to get on the South Dakota District 1 House ballot, or he broke the law to vote in Wisconsin in 2021. Manhart’s bigwig GOP attorney has a duty to her client to obscure those condemnatory facts, but I’d like to think the Secretary of State could at least address those facts and his constitutional duty to protect the integrity of the ballot from illegal candidates.

28 Comments

  1. Eve Fisher 2022-05-30

    Rules are for Democrats in South Dakota.

  2. Donald Pay 2022-05-30

    I can’t stand these effing people. Why can’t people just fess up and admit they were mistaken? It’s the Trump effect, I guess.

    I’m sure Mr. Manhart didn’t commit one or both of his lawbreaking against the people of South Dakota and Wisconsin out of malice. I think he got his certificate in leadership (whatever that is) in Wisconsin, where he clearly resided and voted, and just wanted to demonstrate leadership in South Dakota. Fine, but he has to follow Constitutional requirements. He can’t help it that the SD Legislature is lazy and stupid, and hasn’t updated those clearly outdated requirements.

    I faced a similar situation when I came back to South Dakota in 1980 after going to UW-Madison. No, I didn’t run for office at that time, but I would have had to wait until 1982. Them’s the rules. They apply to all of us, except for Generation Z neo-Nazis, I guess. Mr. Manhart is showing a stunning lack of leadership by futzing with this. He would do everyone a service by withdrawing from the race and lobbying for a change in the Constitution. Then he’ll be able to run. But for now, take a seat Mr. Manhart. You ain’t special.

  3. bearcreekbat 2022-05-30

    Cory’s criticism of Barnett’s legal filing seems both accurate and justified based on both the requirements for a writ of prohibition and the plain language of the election contest statute cited by Cory. A writ of prohibition relates to the alleged unlawful exercise of jurisdiction or power by the challenged government official. It is an action against that official that seeks to enjoin the official from taking a particular action outside his or her legal authority. The existence of an alternate remedy such as an election contest really doesn’t go to the question of the official’s jurisdiction or power to act. And given the apparent complete inapplicability of an election contest proceeding under the facts of this particular case as described by Cory, Barnhart’s argument should be summarily rejected by the court.

    Cory’s critcism (at least to the extent that criticism is implied if not intended to be express) of Manhart’s attorney’s motion for an extension of time seems quite misplaced. Absent some actual urgency in the 10 day statutory period for a response, it seems quite appropriate and not at all unusual or nefarious for legal counsel to seek a short extension based on a previously scheduled vacation. Such a request says nothing about the nature of Manhart’s defense, or whether he even intends to raise a defense, Instead the attorney asks for a short extension so she can turn her attention to her family and friends for her previously scheduled vacation rather than cancelling that short respite to research and advise her client client so a competent legal response can be prepared inside the initial 10 day statutory window.

  4. Donald Pay 2022-05-30

    Cory writes: “But when the facts aren’t on your side—when you claim to have resided in South Dakota since November 2020 but vote in Wisconsin in April 2021 and thus have to choose between charges of petition fraud in South Dakota and voter fraud in Wisconsin—then, yeah, you might need more time to choose your legal smokescreen.”

    You’ve given me an idea. If Mr. Manhart was a resident of South Dakota in order to meet the Constitutional requirement then he’s likely committed voter fraud in Wisconsin. I could file a complaint of voter fraud in Wisconsin. The young man can’t have it both ways, as you say. Or Mr. Manhart could just wait the required time. He’s still committed petition fraud in South Dakota, but perhaps if he tells the truth rather than acting as if he’s a shifty-ass crook, maybe he’ll come out of this with some sense of honor.

  5. Jake 2022-05-30

    He’s already DONE IT!!!! Broken the laws of maybe 2 states and now it trying to cork-screw his way out of a legal jam. So GOP of him,. Watch the rest of the state’s GOP handling of another hot potato.

  6. Darrell Solberg 2022-05-30

    Why would we expect anything else from the majority party? Sweep these illegal actions under the rug and hope the public forgets? We still have many unanswered questions about ‘GEAR UP’ AND EB5! Did the majority party sweep these under the rug, just like they are attempting with the Manhart situation?

  7. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-30

    Well…what we seem to have here is a 23 year old Trumpian adventurer with absolutely no qualifications to be a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives, not even residency, being supported in his quest by the power and glory of the entire Republican machine. It is easy to say everybody in this saga is incompetent and crooked, but, so what??? We know that. The Governor sets the standard. Laws don’t matter. Only the continued dominance of the Party is of any consequence.

  8. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-30

    Arlo
    Who do think is paying for the legal services for Mr. Manhart? The Republican party? His campaign? As he is listed as an interested party and money spent on legal services will 1st need to be listed as income? Will someone have to issue a 1099? Does he have a campaign committee set up under SD law? So many questions not sure any of these matter as laws don’t appear to be universally applied.

  9. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-30

    Francis–I assume the Republican Party with all its resource and deep connections in the legal community will pay any legal fees for Mr. Manhart, if they are not provided “pro bono” as one hand washes the other. Of, course, laws aren’t universally and equally applied. What use is having total political dominance if you’re going to let the rule of law interfere with a promising young man’s career??

  10. All Mammal 2022-05-30

    The self-centeredness of expecting everything to be on hold because you chose unavailable legal counsel is galling. Hire someone who is available. There are plenty of lawyers in South Dakota qualified to step in.

    What is the deal with all the law makers not being able to do zilch without their high dollar mouth piece to tell them the law? They derelict their duties and still have no clue what they might or might not get away with without hiring an attorney, which is usually someone double dipping from SD’s kitty.

    Trusting their fidelity to South Dakota’s laws and practices is like, the job they were hired to do. So unqualified they are. We would be better off going to any of our high schools and nominating a legislature from their student body government. Our 4-H kids are top-notch civics whizzes too.

    I hope an epiphany comes to Mr. Manhart soon so he will stop seeing the people he hopes to lead as his enemy. We are bashed constantly by our state’s leadership, like some evil alien virus. We are you, Mr. Manhart. We all want to raise healthy families in a safe, clean, nice place.
    We are not trying to pollute anybody’s water or lock up nice folks or terrorize people who are different from us. Are you?

    Our politicians should stop being the epitome of sleazy butt-rats and should brush up on their job descriptions. Then, resign if they cannot fulfill their position without a real law professional in their employ.

  11. grudznick 2022-05-30

    I say we all hold Mr. Barnett accountable! Are you with me?

  12. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-30

    Sure…Grudz. All of them need to be held accountable by the voters. Perhaps it can happen this year. How much outrage does it take??

  13. grudznick 2022-05-30

    I think it probably takes a lot, Mr. Blundt. A lot of outrage, and a fair amount of common sense and reasonable coordinated action. If all you do is throw libbie hate at the problems, they never seem to get solved. So I say, give a fair amount of outrage. More than most, but not too much.

  14. RST Tribal Member 2022-05-31

    For this Wisconsin clown to become a full fledged inept inbred republican in South Dakota he just needs to run over someone at or near a Republican stronghold town. Harsh but real.

    The sparrow is trying to fly among all the corruption and ill ways of the inept inbred Republican Party in charge of the state.

    While kitty cat Noem is busy campaigning out of state, like in TX, for governor of South Dakota the clown show goes on back in the state she was elected to govern.

    South Dakota inept inbred Republicans are enacting laws from other states the next logical step for them is to being in like minded inbreeds who are inept. Give him a SD license to drive and turn him loose on SD roads, in time he will fulfill the final step of committing a misdemeanor.

    The election for most inept inbred republicans was over when the sparrow was hatched.

  15. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-31

    BCB, I agree: we have much more ground to critique Barnett’s bad reading of law than to criticize Frankenstein’s request for delay. Lawyers get time off, too, and Manhart’s sudden trouble doesn’t require that Frankenstein put her life on hold for him. But it’s important to note that, if the facts were on Manhart’s side—if he hadn’t actually committed fraud in either South Dakota or in Wisconsin—it wouldn’t take long to draft a reply.

    I also find it interesting that a young fellow in Bath with no degree is able to come up with the cash to hire star lawyer Sara Frankenstein from all the way out in Rapid City.

    Alas, we cannot answer Francis’s question about whether Manhart’s campaign is paying for his defense. Manhart does indeed have a campaign committee, but because he had no primary and because District 1 Democrats didn’t have a primary, either, Manhart and the other District 1 House candidates don’t have to file any campaign finance reports until October.

    I would say that since this lawsuit arises directly from Manhart’s candidacy, using campaign funds to pay Frankenstein is entirely appropriate. Does anyone know if there is statute to the contrary?

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-31

    Donald, yes, you should file a complaint with your Wisconsin election chief. Manhart has sworn he was a resident of South Dakota as of November 2020. If that statement is true, Manhart voted fraudulently in Wisconsin’s April 2021 election. Do you think your state officials would investigate?

  17. bearcreekbat 2022-05-31

    When some other person or entity pays for a defendant’s legal counsel potential ethical problems exist for the attorney and his or her loyalties. The 1st duty is to the client of course, but if whoever controls payment decides that the lawyer should treat the case in a way different than the client desires, the lawyer is put in between the so-call “rock and a hard place.” Failing to comply with the deep pocket’s demands could dry up the lawyer’s income and for time consuming complex cases this presents a real dilemma. Thus, it is certainly a valid and quite important question about who is paying Manhart’s legal costs as well as how they are being paid.

  18. jerry 2022-05-31

    Frankenstein no longer has any juice, let Marty run with it, oh wait, maybe he already is. Dude just got Sanford off the hook so he’s on a role.

  19. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-31

    I don’t think this is that difficult to figure out; research when Mr. Manhart registered to vote in Brown County the 1st time, then determine when he registered to vote in Wisconsin. After moving to Bath, he would need to register to vote once again in Brown County. Or maybe that isn’t how it works; yet I know a person has to be registered to vote before voting so follow the paperwork. I presume voter registration is public information and can be verified at the county courthouse; of course Arlo’s point about having political power and not wasting it has been a nice reminder.

  20. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-31

    Cory
    If Mr. Manhart doesn’t meet the residency requirement for being a candidate is he allowed to have a campaign committee? Since he is the only person listed on his filed form will he be able to access those funds if his candidacy is declared illegal?

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-31

    Jerry, I suspect Frankenstein has plenty of juice. And the fact that she’s bringing her juice to this case, for a rookie GOP candidate who doesn’t have the facts on his side signals Manhart has friends up the party chain… or that the SDGOP at least doesn’t want to lose this spot on the ballot and this chance to rout Dems from District 1.

  22. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-31

    Francis, yes, voter registration is public record. Brown County Auditor Cathy McNickle could tell us when Manhart registered to vote in Brown County. The Eau Claire city clerk might want to know that date, too.

  23. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-31

    Francis, you ask a really interesting question about the legitimacy of Manhart’s campaign committee and fundraising. Interestingly, the answer may be No, his residency error may not annul his committee or deny him access to his political funds raised so far.

    That sounds weird, but check out this definition of “candidate” and “candidate campaign committee” from SDCL 12-27-1:

    “Candidate,” any person who seeks nomination for or election to public office. A person is a candidate if the person raises, collects, or disburses contributions in excess of five hundred dollars; has authorized the solicitation of contributions or the making of expenditures; has been certified as a candidate by a political party; has created a candidate campaign committee for the purpose of obtaining public office; or has taken all actions required by state law to qualify for nomination for or election to public office;

    “Candidate campaign committee,” any committee organized by a candidate to receive contributions and make expenditures for the candidate. Only one candidate campaign committee may be organized for each candidate and only one statewide candidate campaign committee may be organized for each candidate. A candidate may, simultaneously, have both a legislative campaign committee and a statewide campaign committee

    The definition of “candidate” mentions qualifications for office, but that’s in an “or” clause. A citizen doesn’t have to be eligible for an office to be a candidate in the eyes of campaign finance law. Manhart could have said, “Hey, I won’t be eligible to run for Legislature until 2024, but I want to start raising money now. Send money to support Manhart ‘24!” and if he raised or spent more than $500, he’d have to file campaign finance papers, even if he wasn’t on the ballot this year.

    Dennis Daugaard isn’t running for office this year, but he still has a big campaign finance committee, and he can still access those funds and donate to candidates.

    Donors could get cross, call Manhart, and demand refunds (I bold that, because, hey, Manhart donors, you should be paying attention to how this young upstart might make your money go to waste), but only courtesy, not statute, would compel any such donation. Manhart has to report his donations and expenditures eventually, even if he’s booted from the ballot, but his ability to raise and spend those funds does not depend on his constitutional eligibility to run for this office this year.

  24. Donald Pay 2022-05-31

    Cory, Did Manhart maintain his registration in South Dakota while he was a resident in Wisconsin? Did he vote in South Dakota during the time that he was registered in Wisconsin? If he was registered in both states and voted in both states, he’s in a lot more trouble than if he miscounted the months on his candidate petition sworn statement.

  25. Francis Schaffer 2022-05-31

    Cory
    Can a person circulate a petition to be on the 2024 ballot yet? He hasn’t taken or completed the residency requirement to be a candidate or on the ballot in 2022.

    Arlo,
    As he voted in Wisconsin would he not have to register to vote again in South Dakota when he moved back? His South Dakota voter registration would define his return date for the residency requirement and as he voted in Wisconsin he had declared residency there. I think he has some explaining to do and his explanation should match the paperwork. It seems straight forward to figure out the time-line. If it is an honest mistake, doesn’t mean it isn’t still illegal.

  26. Arlo Blundt 2022-06-01

    Yes, Francis, from what we know now, he does not appear to be an eligible candidate. The Republican Party and its operatives will assist him financially to get a court ruling on the issue, if someone with “standing” brings suit.

  27. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-06-01

    Francis, candidates for 2024 cannot circulate petitions in South Dakota until January 1, 2024. But nothing in statute stops one from declaring one’s candidacy before petitions can circulate or, in the case of candidates nominated at convention, before that nomination process actually takes place. Consider Marty Jackley, Brock Greenfield, and Jordan Youngberg, who all declared their intent to seek nomination for state office at this year’s SDGOP convention well over a year ago. Or Kristi Noem: she raised and spent money (a crap-ton of money) through her Kristi for Governor committee starting two years before the 2018 election and continued that campaign finance activity non-stop through 2019, 2020, and 2021, well before her actual declarations of candidacy.

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