Oral arguments begin today in the North Dakota Supreme Court on whether or not the Democratic-NPL party can place another candidate on the ballot for Insurance Commissioner. The party’s first endorsed candidate, Travisia Martin, was found “ineligible to hold office” by the Court days ago. A preview of the arguments is interesting. Does a “vacancy” exist?

The Dem-NPL Party filed suit on Secretary of State Al Jaeger in hopes to get the Court to order his office to include the newly endorsed candidate, Jason Anderson, on the November ballot. The deadline to certify ballots for county auditors is September 9th. Jaeger refused the party’s filings for Anderson claiming there wasn’t a “vacancy.”

There are currently four reasons to replace a candidate on the ballot in ND.

  1. They move
  2. They pass away
  3. Have a debilitating illness
  4. Cease to be qualified to serve if elected

The last point in that list is where the argument will rest. The Court deemed the previously endorsed Dem-NPL candidate as ineligible to hold office and ordered her removed from the ballot. That appears to be similar to “cease to be qualified to serve.” But I’m no lawyer.

Jaeger doesn’t view the court-ordered removal of a candidate as a vacancy. In an email from Jaeger to Dem-NPL Chair Kylie Oversen, Jaeger wrote,” 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.”

The thing to remember, Jaeger approved and placed the previous candidate on the June Ballot. Though the Dem-NPL Party fumbled the ball in vetting their candidate to the fullest extent, this shows an area the Secretary of States office needs improvement. It shouldn’t have to cost taxpayer dollars in court to determine who and what are qualified to be on election ballots.

This is also unfortunate for voters. The Insurance Department is an important office. There is currently a lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out the ACA in its entirety. What are the candidates’ vision for a potential replacement in the state? Some people who rely on their employer for health insurance lost their job because of the pandemic. What is being done for their transition? Hopefully, we can get back to hearing those discussions in the coming days if a competition of ideas is allowed.

Tyler Axness
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