Yesterday I wrote about a lawsuit filed by erstwhile gubernatorial candidate Paul Sorum demanding that over 309,000 ballots cast for Republican Jack Dalrymple and Democrat Ryan Taylor – representing 97 percent of all ballots – be tossed out because the Certificate of Endorsement form for those candidates wasn’t filled out correctly.
Today I’ve obtained the documents in the case, and to be honest they don’t make Sorum’s suit look any more credible than it did at first blush. You can read Sorum’s petition here, North Dakota Solicitor General Doug Bahr’s response below, and Sorum’s response to Bahr here.
Here’s what the case boils down to: The form provided by Secretary of State Al Jaeger to state political parties to fill out for their nominated candidates didn’t have a spot to list both the Governor and Lt. Governor candidates on one sheet of paper. So instead, both the Republicans and the Democrats submitted a separate form for their Governor and Lt. Governor candidates. But the law, specifically North Dakota Century Code Secton 16.1-11-06(2), states: “If the petition or certificate of endorsement is for the office of governor and lieutenant governor, the petition or certificate must contain the names and other information required of candidates for both those offices.”
You can see the forms filled out by then-NDGOP Chairman Stan Stein for Jack Dalrymple and Drew Wrigley here (Democrat Chairman Greg Hodur did the same thing for Ryan Taylor and Ellen Chaffee). Instead of both names on one form, they sent in the names on separate forms.
Technically a violation of the law? Yes. But complicating the issue is the Secretary of State’s use of a form that didn’t itself comply with the law. There’s no space on the form used by Republicans and Democrats to list two candidates, so they used two separate forms.
The Secretary of State now issues a new form, seen here, which has a spot specifically for a Lt. Governor candidate if needed.
Bahr concedes the point that the forms sent in by Republicans and Democrats was technically illegal, but argues that it’s well-established law that this sort of minor infraction is not grounds for overturning an election (see page four of his brief). Below, Bahr points out that this trivial matter had zero impact on the outcome of the election.
Sorum’s other beef is that the law regarding a running mate was used to kick Libertarian Party candidate Roland Riemers off the ballot. But Riemers’ problem wasn’t how his running mate was identified on paperwork; it was that he had no Lt. Governor candidate at all. So the two situations really aren’t comparable.
I would recommend reading Sorum’s petition and Bahr’s response. Despite the legalese, they’re pretty easy to follow, and a revealing look at North Dakota election law.