The five most dangerous words in the English language are “I’m not a lawyer, but …” More about that in a minute.
On Wednesday, I wrote that Secretary of State Al Jaeger said it’s OK to vote for a dead Republican legislative candidate, and if that dead candidate gets more votes than two other Democratic-NPL candidates, he’ll be declared elected, a vacancy will occur and the Republican Party gets to appoint a legislator.
JUST HOLD ON A MINUTE HERE, AL.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, but … I’m not convinced it is that black and white. I think Al is bluffing his way through this to try to give his own party a leg up in what could be another trip to the North Dakota Supreme Court. Somebody needs to call his bluff. Are you listening, North Dakota Democrats?
See, there’s this little matter of the North Dakota Constitution. Here’s what the constitution says in Article IV, Section 5:
Section 5. Each individual elected or appointed to the legislative assembly must be, on the day of the election or appointment, a qualified elector in the district from which the member was selected and must have been a resident of the state for one year immediately prior to that election. An individual may not serve in the legislative assembly unless the individual lives in the district from which selected. (emphasis added)
The constitution goes on to define a “qualified elector” in Article II, Section 1:
Only a citizen of the United States, who has attained the age of eighteen years and who is a North Dakota resident, shall be a qualified elector. (emphasis added)
David Andahl is the legislative candidate in question. He died this week. So Andahl is no longer a North Dakota resident, which means he is not a qualified elector. And he has not lived in the state for one year, which means he cannot be elected. At least that’s what I think.
I’m not a lawyer, but I asked three lawyers Wednesday if I was right. All three said they thought so.
One said this:
“If, say, Andahl finished second and a Dem finished third, then I think that third-place Dem might have a lawsuit vs. Al Jaeger to claim that seat in the Legislature.
“Not sure of the strength of such a case without some research, but your point does not seem crazy to me on first blush.”
Well, nice to know I’m not crazy.
A second said:
“… it seems clear statutorily that there’s no way to replace the late Mr. Andahl (on the ballot), and for the constitutional reasons you cited he is not eligible to be elected to the Legislature. … There may be post-election relief …”
The third just said “I agree.”
Gee, maybe I should be a lawyer.
Well, the Democratic-NPL State chairwoman, Kylie Oversen, IS a lawyer. I hope she gets to work on this. There’s a seat in the Legislature at stake that probably shouldn’t just be conceded to Al Jaeger.