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Published September 04 2010

Judge rejects ballot lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger that was filed by three Libertarian candidates for the state Legislature who sought placement on the November ballot.

Richard Ames of Wahpeton, along with Grand Forks residents Thommy Passa and Anthony Stewart, argued that North Dakota’s ballot access requirements are unconstitutional because they require candidates to get a minimum number of primary election votes, even if they run unopposed.

Such requirements unfairly restrict third-party candidates, they said.

In an order issued Friday, District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson wrote that states can require candidates to demonstrate a certain degree of support in a primary election.

Primary elections serve as a mechanism to “winnow out and reject all but serious candidates,” and ballot requirements allow states to avoid voter confusion, overcrowded ballots and frivolous candidates, Erickson wrote.

He concluded that North Dakota’s ballot requirements for the general election are “non-discriminatory and serve a compelling state interest.”

North Dakota law requires a political party’s candidates to receive a minimum number of votes in the June primary in order to qualify for the November ballot. The minimum equals 1 percent of each district’s population and is capped at 300 votes.

The three Libertarian candidates for the state Legislature each needed 130 votes to advance to the general election, but none of them came close.

Ames received eight votes, Passa received four, and Stewart received six, according to the June election results.

Ames, Passa and Stewart also sought a preliminary injunction to force Jaeger to place them on the November ballot while the lawsuit played out in federal court.

Erickson denied that request because the men failed to show that they would have any likelihood of success if they were on the ballot.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541