Indiana Election Commission and State Supreme Court Rule Against John Rust, Removing Him from Ballot

In a significant development for the upcoming Indiana primary election, the bipartisan Indiana Election Commission has unanimously voted to remove John Rust, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, from the primary ballot. The Indiana Supreme Court further supported the decision, which ruled against Rust in a separate legal challenge.

This is a fascinating ballot access issue and one I will be watching closely: Can states impose additional eligibility requirements on federal candidates in addition to those set out in the Constitution?  The Indiana Supreme Court thinks so.  The U.S. Supreme Court might disagree; see U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, which came up this month in the oral argument for Trump v. Anderson, the Colorado ballot access case currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court.  

John Rust had entered the Republican primary race for the U.S. Senate in Indiana. However, his candidacy was controversial due to his failure to meet the requirements set forth by state law. Indiana law mandates that candidates in a party primary must have voted in their party’s primary in the last two elections or obtained approval from the county party chair.

In his defense, Rust argued that the requirement for candidates to have voted in their party’s past two primaries or obtained approval from the county party chair is unconstitutional. Rust’s attorney contended that the requirement unfairly limited access to the ballot and violated his client’s rights. These arguments were presented before the Indiana Election Commission, urging them to allow Rust to remain on the primary ballot.

Despite the arguments Rust and his legal team put forth, the Indiana Election Commission concluded that the state’s law tied their hands and the ruling of the Indiana Supreme Court. Commission member Karen Celestino-Horseman emphasized that the commission was obligated to enforce the law as originally written.

The Supreme Court had previously temporarily halted a lower court’s decision that had allowed Rust to be included on the primary ballot. Minutes after the Election Commission’s ruling, the Supreme Court issued a new order, voting against Rust and solidifying his removal from the ballot.

With Rust’s removal from the ballot, the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat will now be uncontested. U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, the remaining GOP candidate, will be the sole contender. This development significantly impacts the dynamics of the primary race, eliminating any potential competition for Banks within his party.

Despite the setbacks, Rust’s campaign has announced plans to appeal the Election Commission’s decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2024 Indiana primary election is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7. Voter registration for the primary ends on Monday, April 8.

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