Wattleton v. Simon et al
ORDER: Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 8 ] is GRANTED. Plaintiff David Earl Wattleton's Complaint [Dkt. No. 1 ] is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE for lack of jurisdiction.(Written Opinion) Signed by Judge Joan N. Ericksen on August 10, 2017. (CBC)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MINNESOTA
DAVID EARL WATTLETON,
Case No. 16-cv-2707 (JNE/SER)
STEPHEN F. SIMON, STATE OF
MINNESOTA, SECRETARY OF STATE,
BRADLEY K. ANDERSON, AND STATE
OF MINNESOTA, ELECTION
ADMINISTRATOR OF SECRETARY,
This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Honorable
Steven E. Rau, United States Magistrate Judge, dated July 14, 2017, Dkt. No. 16, recommending
the dismissal without prejudice of the action for lack of jurisdiction. No objections to the Report
and Recommendation were filed, and the deadline for filing objections has passed.
Plaintiff David Earl Wattleton alleges that Defendants, “operating through the Olmsted
County Elections Administrator” in April 2016, “violated his constitutional rights by failing to
provide plaintiff with a voter registration form to cast an absentee ballot . . . without first
confirming that there was an independent determination by a court of his mental capacity
. . . and to certify his eligibility and proof of residency.” Compl., Dkt. No. 1. He attached to his
complaint a May 20, 2016, letter to him from an attorney for Olmsted County explaining that the
County would not send him a voter registration form because “the County would not legally be
able to accept it and process it” based on the County’s determination that he was ineligible to
vote there. Dkt. No. 2. His claims for relief are all prospective; he does not seek damages. See
Compl. Neither Olmsted County nor any of its employees are sued in this action. Rather,
Wattleton sues the Minnesota Secretary of State Stephen F. Simon and, although it is not entirely
clear from the Complaint’s caption, at least one other Minnesota state administrator. 1
Defendants assert that after receiving notice of Wattleton’s complaint, they sent Wattleton a
letter enclosing copies of the voter registration forms he had requested and informed him that the
State and Olmsted County act independently and have separate legal authority. See Defs.’ Br. 78, Dkt. No. 10; see also Dkt. No. 10-1. Defendants also informed Wattleton that the forms he
sought are publically available at the Secretary of State’s Office locations and online. See Dkt.
No. 10-1. The copies of the forms enclosed provide the relevant website address:
http://www.mnvotes.org. See id. Defendants argue, and the Magistrate Judge concluded, that
their provision of these forms and information to Wattleton mooted his complaint. The Court
agrees with the Report and Recommendation’s analysis and conclusion that to the extent
Wattleton complains that Olmsted County or Defendants have refused and will continue to
refuse to provide him copies of the forms, the case has been mooted.
Wattleton’s complaint may also be construed as alleging that Defendants, “operating
through the Olmsted County Elections Administrator, intends [sic] . . . to deprive plaintiff of the
right as an eligible voter to cast an absentee ballot to vote in the federal primary and general
election for president.” Compl. ¶ 3. The Secretary of State has separate authority to consider
registrations to vote and applications for absentee ballots. See Minn. Stat. §§ 201.061, subd. 1
(“A completed application may be submitted: (1) . . . by mail to the county auditor of that county
or to the Secretary of State’s Office”) (emphasis added); 203B.04, subd. 1 (“For a federal, state,
or county election, an absentee ballot application may alternatively be submitted electronically
through a secure Web site that shall be maintained by the secretary of state for this purpose.”).
Wattleton has pleaded no facts suggesting how the Secretary of State might respond to an
All defendants will be treated as having been sued in their official capacities. See, e.g.,
Remington v. Hoopes, 611 F. App’x 883, 885 (8th Cir. 2015).
application that he might submit to the State. Apparently unlike Olmsted County, when
Defendants learned of Wattleton’s request for voting forms, they provided him copies and
pointed him to where the forms are publicly available. Thus, to the extent his complaint alleges
that Defendants, who act independently from Olmsted County in making voter registration and
absentee ballot determinations, may deprive him of his right to vote, this question is
hypothetical, speculative, and unripe for determination. See Parrish v. Dayton, 761 F.3d 873,
875-76 (8th Cir. 2014). 2
Having reviewed the record de novo, the Court accepts the Report and
Recommendation’s recommendation for the reasons stated above.
Based on the files, records, and proceedings herein, and for the reasons stated above, IT
IS ORDERED THAT:
1. Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 8] is GRANTED.
2. Plaintiff David Earl Wattleton’s Complaint [Dkt. No. 1] is DISMISSED WITHOUT
PREJUDICE for lack of jurisdiction.
LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY.
Dated: August 10, 2017
s/ Joan N. Ericksen
JOAN N. ERICKSEN
United States District Judge
The Court accepts the Report and Recommendation’s analysis of Wattleton’s new
claims suggested in his opposition to the motion to dismiss. See Rep. & Rec. at 3, 5, 10.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?