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South Dakota Democrats challenge 23-year-old's House candidacy, alleging residency violations in Wisconsin

Democrats are seeking a writ of prohibition, which would prevent South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett from certifying the candidate's advance to the general election.

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Logan Manhart helped draw attention to the UW-Eau Claire College Republicans voter registration table on campus in Eau Claire on Tuesday, September 28, 2021, as part of National Voter Registration Day.
Dan Reiland / Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
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BATH, S.D. — The candidacy of a 23-year-old running for the South Dakota House of Representatives has come under question after a challenger’s lawsuit alleges previous participation in out-of-state elections makes him an ineligible candidate.

An application for a writ of prohibition, filed May 13 in Hughes County, alleges that Logan Manhart, a District 1 Republican House candidate from Bath, voted in at least four Wisconsin elections between February 2020 and April 2021, deeming him a nonresident of South Dakota and thus ineligible to run in South Dakota’s election.

“In order for Manhart to have voted in Wisconsin in April of 2021, he had to be a resident of Wisconsin for the 28 days preceding that election and could not have been a resident of South Dakota on April 6, 2021,” the application for a writ of prohibition reads. “... As such, Manhart does not meet the eligibility requirements set forth by the South Dakota Constitution to hold the office of representative because he ‘has not been a resident of the state for two years next preceding election’ as required by art. III, § 3.”

The lawsuit — filed by Manhart’s District 1 Democratic challenger, Steven McCleerey, and the South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP) — cites Wisconsin voter registration and voting history tools provided online by the State of Wisconsin Elections Commission.

A check of these resources on May 18 found Manhart is no longer a registered voter in Wisconsin.

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Noting there is no speedy remedy available to receive a judgment on the validity of Manhart’s candidacy ahead of a June 7 primary, the lawsuit requests the court execute a peremptory writ of prohibition that would prevent South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett from certifying Manhart’s eligibility for the general election this November.

With only two candidates gunning for the District 1 Republican nomination in June’s primary, both Manhart and incumbent Rep. Tamara St. John, R-Sisseton, would automatically advance to the general election. A writ of prohibition from a Hughes County judge would push pause on Manhart’s advance until the court can hear evidence regarding the alleged residency violations in full.

In a statement, SDDP Chair Randy Seiler called Manhart’s allegedly fraudulent behavior a “disservice” to the constituents he’s running to represent.

U.S. Attorney for South Dakota Randy Seiler
Randy Seiler

“Logan Manhart is in clear violation of the South Dakota Constitution and is ineligible to run for the South Dakota House of Representatives. Manhart fraudulently signed his certification of candidacy which swore under oath that he was eligible to seek this office,” Seiler said. “His fraudulent behavior is a disservice to the voters of District 1. The law is clear that a candidate must have resided in South Dakota for two years prior to the general election.”

While Manhart did not respond to multiple attempts to contact him, his campaign website, social media activity and newspaper clippings offer some credibility to Democrats’ allegations.

After graduating from Aberdeen Central High School in 2017, Manhart moved to Wisconsin to continue his education, according to a biography on his campaign website. While there, he “found his strength and passion for politics” while working on a reelection campaign for then-President Donald Trump.

“In 2021, Logan graduated with a certificate degree in Leadership Development and Management, with the goal to return home and further the conservative cause in his favorite state,” his biography reads.

On Sept. 28, 2021, Manhart was photographed by the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram’s Dan Reiland flying an American flag during a voter registration event at the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire.

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In one tweet from Manhart’s personal account on Oct. 23, 2021, he posted a selfie of him doorknocking in northwestern Wisconsin, while another tweet on Oct. 30, 2021 pictures him alongside U.S Congress Republican candidate Derrick Van Orden at an event in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

Of the four candidates currently certified to run for District 1 House in the primary, two are running as Republicans and two as Democrats. Should Manhart fail to earn certification to be placed on the November general election ballot, at least one Democrat will be guaranteed a seat.

SD District Maps.PNG
South Dakota's first legislative district is comprised of the areas mostly east and north of Aberdeen, but does not include Aberdeen, itself.
Map courtesy of the South Dakota Legislative Research Council

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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