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North Dakota Republican Party petitions to remove 'ineligible' Democrat from ballot

North Dakota Republican Party petitions to remove 'ineligible' Democrat from ballot

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North Dakota's Republican Party is going to the state Supreme Court to try to remove the Democratic-NPL nominee for state insurance commissioner from the November ballot, calling her "ineligible" to hold office.

Travisia Martin told the Tribune on Friday that "I trust that I will be on the ballot this fall."

The party in May asked Secretary of State Al Jaeger to obtain proof of Martin's North Dakota residency. Executive branch officials must reside in the state for at least five years preceding their election. The NDGOP has cited records that Martin voted in Nevada four years ago in the November 2016 general election.

Martin, a critical care respiratory specialist, has not denied she voted in Nevada in 2016, citing her unfamiliarity with voting requirements in North Dakota and "a desire to make sure my voice was heard in the electoral process."

"This was maybe a mistake, but it does not reflect any intention I had to move back to Nevada then or now," Martin wrote to Jaeger, who has no authority to remove her from the ballot unless a court orders him to or she steps aside.

From her documents she sent to him, it appears Martin moved to North Dakota sometime in 2015, while renting out her Las Vegas house early that year. She also traveled back and forth for office visits to a Las Vegas orthopedic surgeon from April 2015 to January 2016, according to testimony she sent Jaeger.

She declined to specify the date she moved to North Dakota when asked by the Tribune, saying she is "under advisement" and "that information has already been made public."

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The NDGOP's petition to the North Dakota Supreme Court seeks to compel Jaeger to remove Martin from the ballot before Aug. 31 due to her alleged ineligibility.

The legal challenge comes after research by Dickinson attorney Courtney Presthus, who was retained by the Republican Party. 

“Nobody is above the law in North Dakota, and Ms. Martin simply does not meet the requirements laid out for statewide officeholders in the North Dakota State Constitution," Republican Party Chairman Rick Berg said in a statement. "She voted in Nevada in 2016, thereby establishing residency."

In an email to the Tribune, Martin said she is "not concerned about the outcome of this lawsuit."

"I know that I have resided in North Dakota for the 5 year Required Residency Law and beyond," Martin said. "I Trust that our courts will find the truth. It is clear that this entire lawsuit is a sideshow to distract from the real issues, specifically the health and well being of North Dakotans."

Republicans hold all statewide and congressional seats in North Dakota and control its Legislature. Martin is challenging Republican incumbent Jon Godfread, who is seeking a second four-year term as insurance commissioner. Godfread has said he is "pleased the NDGOP is pursuing legal action to protect the integrity of our state's election process."

A Democrat last ran the Insurance Department in 2000. The annual salary is $110,582.

The residency issue has been raised before; North Dakota's Supreme Court in 1935 found Gov. Thomas Moodie ineligible as he had voted in 1930 in Minnesota. His administration came and went amid political upheaval that saw four governors serve in eight months.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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