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N.D. judge denies request to throw out results of 2012 gubernatorial race

BISMARCK – A judge has denied a request by a third-party candidate who wanted the results of North Dakota’s 2012 gubernatorial race thrown out on a technicality.

Paul Sorum, who ran in 2012 as an independent candidate, asked the judge to order the secretary of state to remove the Republican and Democratic candidates from the ballot and recalculate the election results, which would have made him the winner with 1.69 percent of the vote.

Sorum argued that the party endorsement forms filled out by the GOP and Democratic candidates didn’t comply with state law because they omitted their running mates.

In his ruling filed Thursday in Burleigh County District Court, Judge Donald Jorgensen focused on the timing of Sorum’s request. He wrote that election laws are mandatory before an election, but if enforcement is sought afterward, “the rules are merely directory.”

“This Court affirms the importance of this rule, as the North Dakota Supreme Court has previously held, ‘the reason behind this rule is that the will of the people freely and intelligently expressed ought not to be defeated because of the mistake of an officer or of any technical fault,’ ” the ruling states.

Jorgenson also cited a Supreme Court decision in a similar 2012 case filed by the Libertarian Party’s candidate for governor, Roland Riemers. In that decision, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle wrote that Riemers wasn’t entitled to relief because his petition came too late and that the appropriate time to seek the GOP and Democratic nominees’ removal from the ballot was before the primary election.

Jorgenson wrote that Sorum “has failed to demonstrate that there is a clear legal right to have the names of the candidates removed from the ballot.”

Sorum said in a phone interview Friday that he is considering an appeal. He said he didn’t find out about the improperly completed endorsement forms until the Supreme Court’s hearing on Reimers’ case on Election Day 2012.

“So I had no opportunity to bring any action before the election itself,” he said. “I think most people will agree it’s problematic.”

Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple won the 2012 election, receiving 64 percent of the vote. Democrat Ryan Taylor finished with 34 percent of the vote.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.