Rust challenge set for argument in February

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John Rust

The Indiana Supreme Court has set arguments in John Rust’s election law challenge for February 12, three days after the filing deadline to run for U.S. Senate.

If Rust gathers the required 4,500 signatures — 500 from each congressional district — the court’s decision could remove him from the ballot. The court on Friday did not stay an injunction in the case blocking the law.

Rust, running to succeed U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, is challenging a law prohibiting candidates whose last two primary votes don’t match the party they wish to represent.

He sued to gain access to the Republican ballot, saying the measure barred the vast majority of Hoosiers from running under their preferred party — an argument that seemed to sway the court.

He wants to challenge Congressman Jim Banks for the GOP nomination in the May 2024 primary.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Patrick J. Dietrick found the two-primary requirement unconstitutional.

“When the immense power of the state is turned toward and upon its citizens in such a way that it imperils a sacred and cherished right of those same citizens, the state’s actions must be for an articulated compelling and pressing reason, and it must be exercised in the most transparent and least restrictive and least intrusive ways possible,” he said.

“The 2021 (law) fails in this regard. It unduly burdens Hoosiers’ long-recognized right to freely associate with the political party of one’s choosing and to cast one’s vote effectively,” Dietrick continued.

Rust’s two most recent primary votes were Republican in 2016 and Democrat in 2012 — meaning under the questionable law he can’t appear on the Republican ballot for the 2024 May primary election. The law allows an exception, should the county’s party chair grant it. Jackson County Republican Party Chair Amanda Lowery elected not to do so in this case.

The Indiana Supreme Court set a briefing schedule for Rust’s attorneys, as well as the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, who is representing the Indiana Secretary of State in the case.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

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