Indiana judge strikes down state election law restricting candidacies



(The Center Square) – A Seymour man seeking to run for U.S. Senate as a Republican scored a victory in an Indiana state court that will allow him to run for the nomination in next year’s election.

The decision by Marion County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Dietrick strikes down Indiana’s two primary law, which state legislators passed two years ago, as unconstitutional. The law requires a candidate to have voted in that party’s two most recent primary elections or get the certification from the party’s county chair to get on the ballot.

Rust announced his candidacy in August but filed the lawsuit a month later challenging the law. The Southern Indiana farmer voted in the 2016 GOP primary. However, he missed the 2020 election due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In his lawsuit, Rust said he met with Jackson County Republican Chair Amanda Lowery in July, but Lowery refused to certify him because he voted in the 2012 Democratic Party primary. Rust claimed the Democratic primary votes were for family members or members of his church.

Indiana holds open primaries allowing voters to pick the party’s ballot in which they wish to vote.

In his 27-page ruling for summary judgment in the case, Dietrick noted the U.S. Supreme Court considers political expression as protected free speech under the First Amendment. He also noted that establishing “severe” hurdles for a candidacy must be narrow in focus and that the state must have a compelling reason to do so.

“There is no compelling or even rational government interest being served here,” the judge wrote. “The State Defendants have alleged that the statute is a means to ensure party membership and/or commitment to the party. However, the statute has not ensured and cannot ensure membership in or commitment to the party.”

Dietrick also noted the law would keep more than 80% of Hoosiers from running for office.

In a statement, Rust said the ruling was a win for those “who have been disenfranchised by the political class in both Washington and Indianapolis.” He also vowed to keep fighting against those in power.

“The courts have verified what we’ve been saying from the very beginning: Indiana voters deserve a choice in the Republican primary,” he said. “The establishment tried and failed to rig this election for their hand-picked candidate.”

Rust is seeking to succeed outgoing U.S. Sen. Mike Braun. Rather than vie for a second term, the Jasper native plans to run for governor.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks has announced his candidacy for Braun’s seat and is considered by many to be the frontrunner for the Republican nomination in the May 7 primary.

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