Legislator Doesn't Reside In District: MN High Court

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: election law, candidate residency.

Tamara Monaghen v. Steve Simon, Minnesota Secretary of State. MN election law, candidate residency

Minnesota law requires candidates for the Minnesota Legislature to reside in their district for six months immediately prior to the general election. Tamara Monaghen brought this petition alleging that Rep. Robert Barrett, the incumbent, did not reside in the district for the requisite time.

A hearing was held before Judge George T. Stephenson, a district judge acting as referee by order of the Supreme Court. Judge Stephenson made findings that Barrett did not reside in the district. A hearing was held on September 6, and on September 8, the Supreme Court affirmed the referee's findings.

The petitioner had asked the court to remove Barrett's name from the ballot. But the Supreme Court noted that its order declared Barrett to be ineligible for his office, thus creating a vacancy. Because the vacancy occurred 79 days or less prior to the election, state law did not permit removal from the ballot. Instead, the remedy was to leave the ballot unchanged, with the canvassing board ordered not to certify the total. A special election would need to be held in the February following the vacancy.

For that reason, the seat will remain vacant until the special election to be held on February 14, 2017. The Court noted that a full opinion in the case will follow.

According to a news account, Barrett lists his formal address in Taylors Falls, MN, but also owns a home in Shafer, just outside the district. Opponents made 30 visits to the Taylors Falls home over a 15 day period, including proppoing open the door with a stick that would be disturbed if anyone entered, and set up motion-activated cameras to monitor the driveway.

According to another news account, Barrett rented the house from a campaign contributor. He testified that he was interested in buying the house, but that it currently had not cable or satellite television, internet service, trash pickup, washer, or dryer.

No. A16-1252 (Minn. Sep. 8, 2016).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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