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Abdurrahman v. Dayton

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

September 12, 2018

Muhammad Abdurrahman, Plaintiff- Appellant,
v.
Mark Dayton, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Minnesota; Lori Swanson, in her official capacity as Attorney General of the State of Minnesota; Steve Simon, in his official capacity as Secretary of State for the State of Minnesota, Defendants - Appellees.

          Submitted: February 13, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota - Minneapolis

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, MURPHY and COLLOTON, Circuit Judges. [*]

          COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         The State of Minnesota appointed Muhammad Abdurrahman as a presidential elector during the 2016 presidential election. Contrary to Minnesota's Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act, Minn. Stat. §§ 208.40-208.48, Abdurrahman attempted to vote for candidates other than those to whom he was pledged. By operation of law, Minnesota deemed Abdurrahman to have vacated his position as an elector and appointed a substitute elector. Abdurrahman then sued in an effort to have the Act declared unconstitutional and to enjoin Minnesota officials from counting the vote of the substitute elector. After a hearing, the district court[1]dismissed the action as moot, and Abdurrahman appeals. We agree that Abdurrahman's claim is moot, and we therefore affirm the judgment.

         I.

         Because the district court dismissed Abdurrahman's case at the pleading stage, we take the following facts alleged in his complaint as true. On August 11, 2016, the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nominated Abdurrahman as a candidate to be a presidential elector if the Democratic presidential candidate won Minnesota's general election. As required by Minnesota's Uniform Faithful Presidential Electors Act, Minn. Stat. § 208.43, Abdurrahman pledged as follows: "If selected for the position of elector, I agree to serve and to mark my ballots for president and vice president for the nominees for those offices of the party that nominated me."

         On November 8, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine, the Democratic Party's presidential and vice presidential nominees, won the most votes for those offices in Minnesota's general election. As a result of their victory, Abdurrahman became one of Minnesota's presidential electors by operation of law. See 3 U.S.C. § 1; Minn. Stat. §§ 208.02, 208.04. After the election, Governor Dayton submitted a certificate of ascertainment to the Archivist of the United States under 3 U.S.C. § 6 naming Abdurrahman as one of Minnesota's presidential electors.

         In keeping with federal and Minnesota law, the Minnesota electors met on December 19 to cast their ballots for President and Vice President. 3 U.S.C. § 7; Minn. Stat. § 208.06. Contrary to his pledge, Abdurrahman attempted to cast his ballot for Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard for President and Vice President. Following the Minnesota Act, the Minnesota Secretary of State declined to accept Abdurrahman's ballot, deemed Abdurrahman to have vacated his office as elector, and counted instead a ballot from a substitute elector who voted for Clinton and Kaine. Minn. Stat. § 208.46(b)-(d).

         The same day as the meeting of the Minnesota electors, Abdurrahman filed a verified complaint, an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, an ex parte motion for expedited briefing, and a motion for summary judgment in federal district court. Abdurrahman asserted that the Minnesota Act violated Article II and the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution and 3 U.S.C. § 5 by limiting his power to vote for whom he wished and by preventing him from counting, certifying, and transmitting his vote. Abdurrahman sought an injunction preventing Minnesota officials from enforcing the Act and a judgment declaring the Act unconstitutional.

         The district court set a hearing on the emergency motion for December 22, three days after the elector meeting. On December 21, the Minnesota officials filed an opposition pleading in which they argued that Abdurrahman's motion was moot and did not fall within the exception to mootness for cases capable of repetition yet evading review. The officials cited Abdurrahman's failure to pursue his action earlier, on November 9, 2016, when it was apparent he would become a presidential elector, and urged that it was speculative that Abdurrahman would be appointed as an elector in a future election.

         At the December 22 hearing, the district court asked Abdurrahman: "Why is this entire matter not moot?" Abdurrahman's counsel responded that Minnesota officials could submit an amended list of Minnesota elector votes before Congress counted them on January 6, 2017, and that the suit fell within the exception for cases capable of repetition yet evading review.

         On December 23, the day after the hearing, the district court dismissed Abdurrahman's action as moot. The court reasoned that the Minnesota elector votes already had been submitted to the President of the United States Senate. Regarding the exception for cases capable of repetition yet evading review, the district court concluded that although Abdurrahman had insufficient time to litigate his suit fully, it was merely a theoretical possibility that Abdurrahman would become an elector again and have his vote invalidated under the Minnesota Act. The district court also concluded that Abdurrahman's motion was barred by laches and failed on the merits.

         Abdurrahman filed an emergency motion for injunction pending appeal in this court on December 28 and an application for injunction pending appellate review with the Supreme Court on January 3. The motion and application were denied on January 4 and January 5, respectively. ...


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