Can A Lawsuit Make A Man Who Got Less Than 2% Of The Vote Governor Of North Dakota?

In the 2012 election, Governor Jack Dalrymple and Lt. Governor Drew Wrigley received 200,526 votes representing 63.1 percent of all ballots cast. Paul Sorum, gubernatorial candidate who lost the NDGOP endorsement to Dalrymple then ran on the general election ballot as an independent, got 5,356 votes or 1.69 percent of all ballots cast.

Now, 477 days after election day, Sorum wants himself declared the winner of the election because of a paperwork glitch. Mike Nowatzki reports for the Grand Forks Herald:

The law in question requires candidates for governor and lieutenant governor to list their running mates when they complete a certificate of endorsement to have their names placed on the ballot.

Dalrymple, Wrigley and Jaeger don’t dispute that the forms challenged by Sorum failed to comply with state law. But they contend the court shouldn’t toss the election results because the candidates used the authorized form, Bahr wrote in response to Sorum’s petition.

“Any technical noncompliance with the statute was not the fault of the candidates,” Bahr wrote.

At the time, the form had a blank space for listing the office for which the candidate was being endorsed. Jaeger said Tuesday that the form had been changed in the early 1990s, likely to make it uniform for all candidates, and had been used for gubernatorial races since then.

His office now has a separate endorsement form for governor and lieutenant governor, with room to list both candidates’ names – a change made after the old form’s shortcomings came to light in a legal challenge filed by Riemers.

Sorum argues that this same law was used to toss Libertarian Party candidate Roland Riemers off the primary ballot in 2012, so it should also be used to toss Dalrymple and Wrigley (I’m assuming Sorum wants himself declared the victory because Democrats Ryan Taylor and Ellen Chaffee made the same error). But I’m not sure the situations are the same.

The Dalrymple/Wrigley campaign erred in not putting Wrigley’s name on the form to get on the ballot. Riemers’ running mate erred in apparently not filing any paperwork at all.

And the error by Dalrymple/Wrigley seems entirely attributable to a faulty form used by the Secretary of State’s office, not some act of negligence on behalf of the candidates themselves unlike the Riemers situation.

This seems less a reason to reject the will of over 200,000 voters, and put in power a guy who got just over 5,000 votes, than an issue for Secretary of State Al Jaeger to face in his race for re-election. Because if we’ve been using a faulty form since the 1990’s (Jaeger was first elected in 1992), and Sorum is successful in his lawsuit, than it could be that every gubernatorial election since then would be invalidated.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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