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Tribune editorial: Dems to blame for bungled ballot

Tribune editorial: Dems to blame for bungled ballot

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It’s unfortunate that the election for North Dakota insurance commissioner has become -- using one former candidate's own words -- a sideshow.

The Democratic-NPL Party is seeking to put a replacement candidate on the ballot this November after the North Dakota Supreme Court removed the party’s previous nominee.

Travisia Martin, a critical care respiratory specialist from Bismarck, is "not eligible to hold the office of insurance commissioner," as her North Dakota residency falls short of a five-year requirement for executive branch officials.

Now the Democratic-NPL’s Executive Committee has endorsed Mutual of Omaha insurance agent Jason Anderson, of Fargo, for state insurance commissioner. Anderson is seeking to challenge Republican incumbent Jon Godfread, who is running unopposed for a second term.

But the clock is ticking. Secretary of State Al Jaeger has until Wednesday to certify the ballots for county auditors.

The Democrats filed another action with the Supreme Court this week seeking to place Anderson on the ballot.

Martin has maintained that she has lived in North Dakota for the five years required by law. She said in documents provided to Jaeger she was traveling back and forth to Las Vegas for work through January 2016. The North Dakota Republican Party filed a lawsuit challenging her eligibility, citing records that Martin voted in Nevada in November 2016.

In a statement to the Tribune last July, Martin called the lawsuit “a sideshow to distract from the real issues, specifically the health and well being of North Dakotans."

Martin is right about the sideshow. The election has not focused on real issues but instead has included perplexing arguments from the Democrats such as whether there’s a difference between being qualified for the ballot and being eligible to hold the office.

But it didn’t have to be this way. When it was apparent last spring that Republicans were raising questions about Martin’s eligibility, she could have stepped aside and waited another four years to run. It’s pretty clear that people ought to vote where they live, and Martin considered herself a Las Vegas voter four years ago.

Now that Democrats have endorsed a new candidate, it raises questions about why they didn’t back Anderson sooner. It should have been apparent they were fighting a losing battle with Martin.

Democratic-NPL Chairwoman Kylie Oversen said in a statement that the North Dakota GOP could have brought its lawsuit earlier but delayed to tighten the time frame. That’s likely true. But is it really surprising that a political party would play politics? It was public knowledge that Republicans were researching a potential lawsuit and had sought information from Jaeger.

Another option would have been for Anderson to gather signatures to be placed on the ballot as an independent. 

Now Democrats are bemoaning that voters may not have choices on the ballot. Voters ought to have choices, but the Democratic party did them a disservice in how they handled the matter.

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