BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court has upheld a decision by North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger refusing to allow the name of a new Democratic-NPL Party candidate for state insurance commissioner, Jason Anderson, to be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot.
The party endorsed Anderson as its candidate for insurance commissioner after Jaeger determined the party's original candidate, Travisia Martin, did not meet the state's five-year residency requirement.
In late August, the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed Jaeger's decision relating to Martin, ruling that the then-Democratic-NPL candidate could not appear on the November ballot.
The party filed candidacy papers for Anderson to appear on the November ballot, but Jaeger rejected them, citing a North Dakota Century Code that states a vacancy in a primary election may not be filled unless the candidate "ceases to be qualified to serve."
Jaeger wrote in an email to Democratic-NPL Party chairwoman Kylie Oversen that because Martin was never a qualified insurance commissioner candidate to begin with, there is no party nomination vacancy on the ballot, according to a copy of the email included in court filings.
"The Supreme Court determined your candidate was not qualified when she was on the June ballot. Therefore, she cannot cease to be qualified because she was not qualified when she was on the ballot. Therefore, no vacancy exists according to the law," Jaeger wrote in his email to Oversen.
In an email reply to Jaeger, Oversen said she disagreed with his interpretation of the Century Code. She wrote that because Martin was on the June primary election ballot, she was once eligible; therefore, the party should be able to nominate a new candidate.
The deadline to file a candidate for statewide office was Monday, Aug. 31.
In a decision filed Friday, Sept. 4, the Supreme Court ruled that the secretary of state does not have a duty to certify a new nomination and place the new nominee's name on the general election ballot when a vacancy on the ballot occurs after the primary election unless the vacancy occurs as a result of one of four conditions spelled out in Century Code.
Century Code reads that a vacancy in a nomination following a primary election may be filled if the nominated candidate:
- Would be unable to serve due to a debilitating illness.
- Ceases to be a resident of the state.
- Ceases to be qualified to serve, if elected, as otherwise provided by law.
Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle filed a dissenting opinion citing the fourth condition listed above.
He stated that due to ambiguity in the wording of the Century Code, a reasonable interpretation of the law would view Martin as having been a qualified candidate when her name was placed on the primary ballot by the secretary of state and that she subsequently ceased to be a qualified candidate when the court determined she was not eligible to hold the office of insurance commissioner.
"I would err on the side of placing a candidate's name on the ballot when ambiguity exits in a statute. Therefore, I dissent," VandeWalle wrote in his dissenting opinion.
The Democratic-NPL Party issued a statement Friday saying it agreed with VandeWalle, "the longest-serving chief justice in the state's history," in his dissent.
The only insurance commissioner candidate on the November ballot will be Republican incumbent Jon Godfread, according to the secretary of state's website.