The North Dakota Supreme Court has ordered a recount of primary votes for Libertarian Secretary of State candidate Roland Riemers, who said he is "somewhat displeased" because the recount may disrupt his summer relaxation.
"I'm quite pleased with the decision," Riemers told the Tribune on Friday. "It shows I was reading the law right. I am somewhat displeased by the fact that now I'm going to have to spend my summer, instead of relaxing at the lake, being involved in a recount statewide."
Riemers, who officially received 247 votes statewide in the June primary as the sole Libertarian on the ballot, failed to garner the 300 votes for nomination to the November ballot. He petitioned the court for a recount, with arguments on Tuesday, during which he questioned the state's election process, going so far as to ask why voters' ballots are not public records.
He and state Solicitor General Matthew Sagsveen disagreed in their interpretations of North Dakota's recount statute, as Sagsveen said the law applies to candidates within a ballot column, while Riemers said it was for the office sought, including all related candidates.
In a unanimous opinion issued Friday, Justice Daniel Crothers wrote that "plain language" of North Dakota's recount statute entitles Riemers to the recount.
"The plain language of (the statute) requires a comparison of the highest votes cast for a candidate for the office sought without regard to the candidate's party," he wrote. "The fact that we are required to construe (the statute) does not preclude the remedy of mandamus. Moreover, given the time constraints on ballot preparation for the general election, no plain, speedy and adequate remedy at law is available for Riemers."
Justice Lisa Fair McEvers, in a special concurring opinion, wrote that she "reluctantly" agreed.
"I highly doubt the legislative assembly intended for the Secretary of State to conduct a mandatory recount for a candidate seeking the nomination of a party when the candidate did not receive the minimum number of 300 votes necessary to be placed on the ballot," she wrote. "Even Mr. Riemers expressed surprise at oral argument. However, as has already been pointed out by the majority, 'Courts are not free to disregard the letter of a statute under the pretext of pursuing its spirit.'"
Secretary of State Al Jaeger said his office on Friday was coordinating the recount's process.
"We’re going to do what the court has indicated has to be done, and do the recount," he said.
Riemers said he has already been in contact with Jaeger's office about the court's decision. He said he would prefer to cut short the process if enough votes are found in his favor.
"All we need is 53 votes," he said. "If we find the 53 votes, we can cut off the recount at that point, as far as I'm concerned," he told the Tribune.
Jaeger said the filing deadline for the November general election is Sept. 4, with ballot certification days afterward.
The longtime Republican incumbent also said he has enough signatures to file as an independent for the office, but has yet to file. Jaeger lost his party's endorsement last spring to Will Gardner, who withdrew after the primary following a Forum News Service story about his conviction in 2006 for peeping. The state Republican Party later issued a letter of support for Jaeger.
Fargo Rep. Josh Boschee is the Democratic-NPL candidate.