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North Dakota Libertarians look to regain ballot status, fill 2020 ballot

Libertarian Secretary of State candidate Roland Riemers lost his bid to be placed on the November ballot after members of the State Canvassing Board certified the results of a recount on Tuesday at the state Capitol in Bismarck. The members are, from left: Warren Larson, Bob Christman, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Penny Miller and State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt.

BISMARCK — North Dakota Libertarians are already looking ahead to the 2020 election, despite the loss of the party's ballot status.

Secretary of State candidate Roland Riemers, the only Libertarian on the statewide primary ballot, needed 300 votes to advance to November's general election and to maintain his party's ballot access. He won a duel before the North Dakota Supreme Court for a recount, the results of which were certified Tuesday by the state Canvassing Board: 248 votes, one more than in the primary.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said the Libertarian Party can circulate petitions to gather 7,000 signatures statewide to restore its column for the 2020 primary.

"They've done this before," he said.

The one additional vote for Riemers was found in Burleigh County, according to Jaeger, who said the last recount for a statewide office was in 1996 for agriculture commissioner.

Riemers said he was informed of the recount's official results Tuesday morning, but expressed continued concern over what he said were ballots "denied" due to crossover voting in the primary.

"I'm still trying to pry out the actual number from the secretary of state," he said.

Riemers also provided a letter he said he sent to the board, which highlighted crossover voting as well as the state's election integrity, which he questioned before the high court, going so far as to ask why ballots are not public records.

"The good news about this whole recount is that our election tabulating machines are 100 percent accurate. The bad news for me is that the election machines are 100 percent accurate," Riemers' letter said.

Restoring ballot status

North Dakota Libertarian Party chair Steven Potter said his party is already vetting candidates for statewide races in 2020 and is "shooting for" a full slate on the ballot.

Amid turnover in the party's longtime leadership and attention on the high-stakes Senate race in North Dakota, Potter said Libertarians wanted to rebuild before 2020. But two Libertarians ran in the primary: Riemers and Fargo legislative hopeful Timothy Sizemore, who received nine votes.

Potter said he has faith in the state's election integrity, though he and Riemers expressed criticism for not allowing primary crossover voting. Potter said not allowing voters to nominate candidates from more than one party in the primary limits their choices.

Restoring ballot status for 2020 looks to be "a large challenge," but doable, according to Potter.

"Historically, we have no problem drumming up enough support among the people of the state to have us on the ballot," he said.

Libertarians supported Riemers' efforts for a recount but "weren't very hopeful" and didn't expect a different outcome, according to Potter.

Riemers said he's considering another run for office in 2020, but "we shall see." He said he enjoys the "fun" of politics, hobnobbing with other candidates and building name recognition. He's previously run for governor, auditor and secretary of state.

Race is ready

Only one of three candidates for North Dakota secretary of state is associated with a party on the ballot this year. State elections director John Arnold said Jaeger and two-time Republican lieutenant governor candidate Michael Coachman have been approved as independents for the November election. Riemers has endorsed Coachman.

Fargo Rep. Josh Boschee is the Democratic-NPL nominee for secretary of state. Republican-endorsed candidate Will Gardner withdrew from the race after the June primary following news of his conviction in 2006 for window peeping.

Republican Jaeger then re-entered the race. The state GOP later issued a letter of support for his campaign as an independent.