MINOT, N.D. — It's probably not an emotion anyone aspires to, but if you want to feel angry, you should watch the oral arguments before the North Dakota Supreme Court today in the Berg vs. Jaeger case.
And you can, because I'm embedding the video right here for you:
This is the lawsuit, brought by the North Dakota Republican Party, which alleges, correctly I believe, that Democratic candidate for Insurance Commissioner Travisia Martin is ineligible to hold the office she's campaigning for.
The facts in the case are not complicated.
North Dakota's constitution has a five-year residency requirement for statewide elected branch offices. It has been used before, in the 1930's, to remove a Democratic governor from office after serving just a few weeks when it was discovered he had voted in Minnesota during the previous five years.
The State of Nevada has a 30-day residency requirement to cast a ballot.
Martin is running for statewide elected office in North Dakota in 2020.
She also admits to voting in Nevada in 2016, something she did after I published election records from that state proving the fact indisputable.
Unless Martin wants to cop to a felony election crime in Nevada, she could not have been a resident in North Dakota in 2016 and thus does not meet the five-year eligibility requirement in 2020.
Straight forward, right?
Not in the hands of the attorney for the North Dakota Democratic-NPL.
Former state Senator Mac Schneider, who was defeated in his campaign for the U.S. House in 2018, argued on behalf of Martin, and his tactic was to kick the can down the road. He believes that the constitution's residency requirement is for holding office, not running to hold that office, a crafty bit of parsing worthy of someone who is both lawyer and politician.
"There is no actual controversy for this court to adjudicate," he said. Which is remarkable. Martin's name is on the ballot for an office for which her eligibility is in dispute, and Schneider thinks this doesn't matter.
Schneider also did his best to minimize the importance of Martin voting in another state during the time when the constitution requires her to have residency in North Dakota. "Her vote in Nevada is really a much smaller matter than her residency in North Dakota," Schneider said.
Actually, it's the whole point of this insipid exercise.
Repeatedly Schneider sneered at the evidence against Martin, describing it as "skeletal" and "thin" and nothing more than "paper record assertions."
Yet, again, this is not a complicated situation. The facts need not be many. They need only be certain, and Martin herself has admitted to voting in Nevada in 2016.
At one point Justice Daniel Crothers asked attorney Courtney Presthus, who represents the NDGOP in this matter, if Martin couldn't just argue that she committed fraud in Nevada and was a legal resident of North Dakota the whole time.
Presthus acknowledged that Martin could, indeed, do just that.
Yet if Martin wanted to use that grubby defense, why hasn't she to this point?
A candidate more honorable than Martin, a political party with more integrity than the North Dakota Democratic-NPL, would have acknowledged this problem a while ago and withdrawn the candidacy with an apology to voters. Instead they've chosen to litigate the blindingly obvious, which is that Martin is not eligible for the office.
"Let's have an election," Schneider said, one of his many assertions to the court that the people ought to decide this matter at the ballot box. But think, for a moment, what that means.
Schneider also argued at one point that Martin voted in Nevada because she was befuddled by North Dakota's election laws. Yet Schneider's party also wants North Dakota to elect Martin to administer one of the most byzantine and thoroughly regulated industries in our state.
If Travisia Martin can't figure out voting laws, why in the world should voters trust her with insurance laws?
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.