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After Dems squeak by, top NDGOP official says threshold for advancing from primary should be higher

BISMARCK - A top official with the North Dakota Republican Party said Friday the state needs a higher threshold for legislative and statewide candidates to advance from the June primary election, after a number of Democrats narrowly made the cut ...

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, right, convenes a meeting of the state canvassing board on Friday, June 24, 2016, in the state capitol in Bismarck. Clockwise from Jaeger are board members Roz Leighton, executive director North Dakota Republican Party, Alison Tate, of the North Dakota Democratic Party, Penny Miller of the state supreme court and Kelly Schmidt, state treasurer. The board met to certify election results from the 2016 June primary election. TOM STROMME/ Bismarck Tribune
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, right, convenes a meeting of the state canvassing board on Friday, June 24, 2016, in the state capitol in Bismarck. Clockwise from Jaeger are board members Roz Leighton, executive director North Dakota Republican Party, Alison Tate, of the North Dakota Democratic Party, Penny Miller of the state supreme court and Kelly Schmidt, state treasurer. The board met to certify election results from the 2016 June primary election. TOM STROMME/ Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK – A top official with the North Dakota Republican Party said Friday the state needs a higher threshold for legislative and statewide candidates to advance from the June primary election, after a number of Democrats narrowly made the cut last week.

To advance to the November ballot, primary candidates must receive at least as many votes as the number of petition signatures required to get on the primary ballot, which is based on 1 percent of the total population of the legislative district.

Depending on the district, the threshold ranges from 137 votes to 149 votes.

Results of the June 14 primary certified by the State Canvassing Board on Friday show 15 Democratic-NPL legislative candidates beat the threshold by 100 votes or less, with one making it by just 16 votes.

During a lull in Friday’s meeting, GOP Executive Director Roz Leighton, who serves on the five-member board, said the threshold should be higher for legislative candidates as well as statewide candidates, who need 300 signatures to get on the primary ballot unless they receive their party’s official endorsement. Secretary of State Al Jaeger noted it would require a change in state law.

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In an interview afterward, Leighton said there have been no official discussions among GOP leaders about seeking the change, “but it’s definitely been brought up,” she said. Many other states have much higher thresholds, she said, adding, “140 people should not be speaking for 14,000.”

Dem-NPL Executive Director Robert Haider said the idea “seems like a solution in seek of a problem.”

“To the best of my knowledge, it’s not been an issue in the recent past,” he said.

The 300-signature rule for statewide candidates played a role in the GOP primary, as Fargo businessman Doug Burgum had to collect signatures to earn a spot on the ballot for governor after losing the party’s convention endorsement to Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem.

Certified results show Burgum beat Stenehjem by 23,884 votes for the GOP nomination. Bismarck oilfield consultant Paul Sorum – who bypassed the convention process and also got on the ballot with signatures – received 2,164 votes.

Republican and Dem-NPL officials alike have said they believe Burgum benefited from a significant crossover vote by Democrats, but most said it wasn’t the difference in the race. GOP chairman Kelly Armstrong has said party leaders will consider switching from a convention endorsement process to a different format such as a closed primary, which would require legislative action and voter registration in the only state without it.

Certified results show voter turnout was 24.5 percent, matching the average for the last 18 June elections. Turnout was about 17 percent in June 2014 and 32 percent in June 2012, which had a contested Republican race for U.S. House and several high-interest ballot measures.

Before county canvassing boards met Monday to count late-arriving absentee ballots, the unofficial turnout stood at 138,685. It jumped Friday by 1,272 to 139,957, out of a total voting-age population of 570,955.

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Friday’s meeting hit a brief snag when it was discovered that Renville County had submitted only its late-arriving absentee results instead of combining them with the Election Day results. The county quickly provided the Election Day results to resolve the issue.

 

Close calls The list below shows how many votes some Democratic-NPL Party candidates received in the June primary and, in parentheses, how many votes they needed to advance to the November election. Fifteen candidates beat the threshold by 100 or fewer votes. The list includes districts in which one or both candidates received fewer than 300 votes. 

District 16 Senate: Tyler Axness 249 (149)

District 28 Senate: Dustin David Peyer 266 (138)

District 30 Senate: Chris Rausch 287 (147)

District 32 Senate: Tiffany Hodge 272 (146)

District 36 Senate: John Fielding 224 (141)

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District 40 Senate: Phil Franklin 206 (143)

District 42 Senate: Mac Schneider 275 (141)

District 2 House: Doug Hoffman 234 and Brandon Delvo 214 (147)

District 8 House: Agnes Jennings 306 and Casey Buchmann 297 (142)

District 16 House: Lisa Dullum 223 and Ben Hanson 201 (149)

District 30 House: Kathleen Risch 267 and Tom Asbridge 247 (147)

District 32 House: Cheryl Ann Kary 251 and Karen Ehrens 247 (146)

District 36 House: Dean Meyer 208 and Linda Kittilson 207 (141)

District 38 House: Susan Rintoul 210 and Richard Rintoul 198 (141)

District 40 House: Heidi Rintoul 191 and A.J. Schultz 159 (143)

District 42 House: Kylie Oversen 258 and Grand Hauschild 216 (141)

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