Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum petitioned the State Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue declarations and a writ of mandamus concerning who appoints the replacement after the pre-election death of a candidate for an office in the Legislative Assembly. Four candidates appeared on the 2020 general election ballot for two available seats for the office of State Representative for District Eight. The prior officeholder died in October 2020, twenty-nine days before the election, and after ballots were printed and early voting had begun. The North Dakota Secretary of State requested an advisory opinion from the state Attorney General on what to do about votes cast for the deceased candidate. The Attorney General responded stating that the North Dakota legislative assembly would follow the procedure codified in N.D.C.C. 16.1-13-10: "Upon the application of state law and the ‘American’ rule, it is my opinion that this would be the appropriate method to fill a vacancy." Election day totals showed Dave Nehring received the most votes and David Andahl received the second most votes. In accordance with the Attorney General's Opinion, the election results were certified but no certificate of election was issued to Andahl because of his death. Officials for the District Eight Republican Committee announced their intention to appoint an individual to fill the office. Kathrin Volochenko received the third most votes. She intervened in this case and claimed no vacancy in office would exist because she was elected to the office. On December 1, 2020, Nehring was set to fill one of the seats because he received the most votes. Andahl received the second most votes, and he presumably would have filled the other seat but died and will not do so. Therefore, as a matter of law, a vacancy would exist on December 1, 2020. When a vacancy in office occurs, the Governor’s constitutional authority to fill it is contingent upon there being “no other method” provided by law. A governor does not have authority to fill a legislative branch vacancy unless the gap-filling authority of N.D. Const. art. V, section 8 permits it. The Supreme Court declared a vacancy in office would exist on December 1, 2020, and the Governor did not have statutory or constitutional authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy in this case. "He has not established a clear legal right to performance of the acts he seeks. Therefore, a writ of mandamus is not warranted. We deny the requested relief." View "Burgum v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Kenton Onstad, individually in his capacity as a resident and elector of North Dakota District 4 and as chair of the District 4 Democratic-NPL Party, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to compel Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to remove Terry Jones from the general election ballot as a candidate for the House of Representatives from District 4. Onstad argued Jones was constitutionally ineligible to hold the office of representative from District 4 because he will not have been a North Dakota resident for one year immediately prior to the November general election. Considering all of the facts and circumstances, the North Dakota Supreme Court found Jones would have been a North Dakota resident for more than one year at the time of the November 3, 2020 general election. Therefore, Jones satisfied the constitutional residency requirement for election to the office of state legislator and it was not error to place his name on the ballot. The Court denied Onstad’s petition for a writ of mandamus. View "Onstad v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Kylie Oversen, individually and as chairwoman of the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota, and Jason Anderson, as a candidate nominated by the Democratic-Non-Partisan League Party of North Dakota for the statewide elective office of North Dakota Insurance Commissioner, petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus to direct Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to accept and certify Anderson for inclusion on the November 3, 2020 general election ballot for the office of insurance commissioner. Oversen and Anderson argued there was a vacancy on the ballot for that position and Jaeger was required to place Anderson’s name on the ballot as the nominated and endorsed Democratic-NPL party candidate for the office under N.D.C.C. 16.1-11-18(4). After review, the Supreme Court concluded Jaeger correctly applied North Dakota law by refusing to include Anderson on the general election ballot. Therefore, the Court denied the petition. View "Oversen, et al. v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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Rick Berg, as a resident and elector of North Dakota, and as chairman of the North Dakota Republican Party, petitioned this Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus directing Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to remove Travisia Jonette Minor, A/K/A Travisia Martin from the November 3, 2020, general election ballot for the office of insurance commissioner. Martin filed an affidavit of candidacy, statement of interest, and certificate of endorsement with Jaeger requesting she be placed on the primary election ballot as the North Dakota Democratic-NPL party candidate for North Dakota Insurance Commissioner. In the affidavit of candidacy, Martin certified she met the requirements to hold the office of insurance commissioner. The executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party sent a letter to Jaeger stating Martin was ineligible to hold the office of insurance commissioner because she was not a North Dakota resident for five years preceding the November 2020 election. The Republican Party alleged Martin was ineligible to hold elective office because she voted in Nevada in the November 2016 election. Martin asserted she had maintained her physical residence in North Dakota since 2015. Jaeger refused to remove Martin from the ballot, stating he could only remove a candidate from the ballot if the candidate refused to accept the party nomination or if ordered to do so by a court. After review of the evidence, the North Dakota Supreme Court had "no doubt" Martin fully formed the intent to make North Dakota her legal residence at some point after 2016. However, all of the evidence and testimony presented to the Court regarding Martin’s intent and her actions, both prior-to and up until her vote in 2016, suggested she had not fully abandoned her Nevada domicile and residency, and she continued to avail herself of the rights of being a citizen of Nevada. She availed herself of these rights specifically to the exclusion of exercising many of those rights in North Dakota, including the right to vote. Therefore, the Court exercised its original jurisdiction to consider Berg’s petition, and granted an alternative writ of injunction. View "Berg v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Petitioners Michael Haugen, Jacob Stutzman, Trent Barkus, and the Brighter Future Alliance sought a writ to enjoin North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger from placing an initiated measure on the November 3, 2020 ballot. The measure sought to amend the North Dakota Constitution concerning elections and legislative districting. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court granted the writ, concluding the petition did not comply with the constitutional requirement that it contain the full text of the measure. The Court set aside the Secretary of State’s decision to place Measure 3 on the November ballot and enjoined him from doing so. View "Haugen, et al. v. Jaeger, et al." on Justia Law

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Mohamed Awad appealed a district court order denying his motion to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of knowingly voting when not qualified to do so. On appeal, Awad argued the district court should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea because he was not adequately advised under N.D.R.Crim.P. 11(b) of the possible immigration consequences of pleading guilty, and because he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court order. View "North Dakota v. Awad" on Justia Law

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Roland Riemers petitioned the North Dakota Supreme Court to exercise its original jurisdiction and issue a writ of mandamus directing the North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to order a recount of the June 12, 2018 primary election for the office of secretary of state. Riemers argued he was entitled to an automatic recount under N.D.C.C. 16.1-16-01(1)(a) because he "failed to be nominated in a primary election by one percent or less of the highest vote cast for a candidate for the office sought." The Supreme Court determined the plain language of N.D.C.C. § 16.1-16-01(1)(a) requires a comparison of the highest votes cast for a candidate for the office sought without regard to the candidate's party. “The fact that we are required to construe N.D.C.C. 16.1-16-01(1)(a) does not preclude the remedy of mandamus.” Moreover, given the time constraints on ballot preparation for the general election, the Court determined no plain, speedy, and adequate remedy at law was available for Riemers. Under the plain language of N.D.C.C. 16.1-16-01(1)(a), Riemers was entitled to an automatic recount, and the Secretary of State was statutorily required to order that automatic recount. The Supreme Court exercised its original jurisdiction to consider Riemers' petition, and granted his request for a writ of mandamus. View "Riemers v. Jaeger" on Justia Law

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C.T. Marhula appealed a judgment dismissing an action contesting a special election in the City of Grand Forks. Marhula argued Grand Forks lacked authority under its home rule charter and city ordinances to designate one voting location for the special election. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded Marhula's post-election challenge to the special election was moot, and affirmed the judgment dismissing the action. View "Poochigian v. City of Grand Forks" on Justia Law

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Curtis Francis and another man, Michael Dax, were collecting signatures near the Jamestown Civic Center, a designated polling place, on voting day. They were doing so in an effort to get an initiated measure regarding environmental concerns placed on the next ballot. While they were collecting signatures, it began to rain. They moved under a canopy covering an entrance to the polling place. They continued collecting signatures as individuals walked past them to vote. One voter told an election clerk about Francis and Dax's activities. The clerk informed the county auditor. The auditor, along with a plain-clothed security officer, went to speak with Francis and Dax. They informed the two it was illegal to collect signatures within 100 feet of a polling place. Dax began arguing with the auditor; Francis continued collecting signatures. A police officer was dispatched. The officer confiscated the signatures, but did not arrest Francis or Dax. After the incident, the officer forwarded a report to the county prosecutor. The prosecutor filed charges against Francis for collecting signatures within 100 feet of an open polling place. Francis appealed after conditionally pleading guilty to gathering signatures within 100 feet of a polling place. After review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the electioneering law he was charged under did not violate the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and was a reasonable restriction on the North Dakota Constitution's initiated ballot measure provision. The Court also concluded Francis has failed to show he was selectively prosecuted. View "North Dakota v. Francis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-Appellant Roland Riemers appealed a district court order that denied his petition for a writ to require the Secretary of State to remove the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor from the November 2012 general election ballot, or alternatively to place him on that ballot as the Libertarian party candidate. According to Riemers, both he and his running mate for lieutenant governor filed separate certificates of endorsement and statements of interests with the Secretary to place their names on the June 2012 primary ballot, but Richard Ames did not submit a signature page with his statement of interests. Accordingly, the Secretary placed Riemers' name on the primary ballot, but not that of his running mate Ames. Riemers received enough votes in the primary to qualify for placement on the general election ballot. The Secretary asked the Attorney General whether under North Dakota law, Riemers could be nominated for governor without an accompanying candidate for lieutenant governor. The Attorney General issued a written opinion ruling that Riemers was not nominated because the requirements for a joint ballot for governor and lieutenant governor were not satisfied. Riemers thereafter submitted sufficient signatures to the Secretary of State for certification on the November general election ballot as an independent candidate for governor, with Anthony Johns as his accompanying candidate for lieutenant governor. In September 2012, after filing matter in the district court and being informed a previous attempt to serve the petition on the Secretary of State by certified mail was insufficient under N.D.R.Civ.P. 4(d)(2), Riemers personally served an Assistant Attorney General with the petition for a writ of mandamus, a writ of prohibition, a writ of quo warranto, and for preventive or declaratory relief. Riemers named the Secretary of State as the respondent and asked the district court to require the Secretary of State to remove the Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor from the November general election ballot for failure to file a joint certificate of endorsement for the primary election. Riemers alternatively sought an order requiring the Secretary of State to place his name on the general election ballot as the Libertarian candidate for governor with Anthony Johns as the Libertarian candidate for lieutenant governor. Riemers also sought an order directing the Secretary of State to stop discriminating against minor party and independent candidates. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Riemers failed to demonstrate a clear legal right to be certified for the general election ballot as the Libertarian candidate for governor and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying his petition for a writ to require the Secretary of State to certify his name for that ballot as the Libertarian candidate for governor. View "Riemers v. Jaeger" on Justia Law