There’s no question that North Dakota Democrats are in a bad spot.
Their statewide convention begins in just 17 days, the deadline for submitting candidates for the June primary vote is just 28 days away, and as I write this they’ve yet to announce a single statewide candidate.
Interestingly, the Democrats have scheduled their state convention in Bismarck for the same weekend as the Republican state convention in Fargo. Typically the parties hold their respective conventions on different weekends so as not to step on each other’s press. I’m guessing that the Democrats, given their paucity of candidates or any discernible statewide enthusiasm, maybe don’t mind being overshadowed by the Republicans this cycle?
Anyway, the fade in relevance of the state’s liberals has prompted a couple of dozen emails to me over the last week or so wondering if the Democrats are at risk of losing their automatic ballot access. “I was at a concert at the Heritage Center Saturday night and some women behind me were talking,” a SAB reader told me in an email this morning. “They said if the Democrats don’t field a candidate for Governor, under state law, they will lose their standing as a political party.”
The Democrats are in tough shape, sure, but things aren’t quite that bad. Mostly because it’s a presidential year.
For political parties which already have ballot access in North Dakota – right now that’s the Republicans, the Democrats, and the Libertarians – maintaining it requires having at least one candidate get a certain percentage of the vote on the statewide ballot. So you can understand why some would be concerned that Democrats, who again have zero candidates, losing their standing.
But under state law, in presidential election years political parties must field a candidate who gets at least 5 percent of the vote in either the presidential race or the gubernatorial race. In non-presidential year it’s the same requirement but for the Secretary of State or Attorney General races:
While it remains to be seen whether or not Democrats will run a candidate for Governor, they will most certainly have a candidate for President on the statewide ballot, and while that candidate won’t win the state I think it’s safe to say that he or she will get at least 5 percent of the vote.
But if for some reason Democrats didn’t have a qualifying candidate get at least 5 percent of the vote they’d have to collect signatures per section three of the law above.