Port: Democratic candidate for insurance commissioner should save us all some time and resign from the race

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MINOT, N.D. — In 1935, a Democrat named Thomas H. Moodie was the Governor of North Dakota.

But only for a few weeks.

He was inaugurated on Jan. 7 of that year, but by Feb. 16 had been removed from office by the state Supreme Court.

It turns out Moodie, who spent most of his life working in the newspaper industry, had lived in Minnesota at one point during the five years previous to being elected governor and had cast a vote in that state in a municipal election.

North Dakota's constitution -- Article V, section 4 specifically -- requires that those wishing to hold statewide elected office must have five years of residency in the state before taking office.


Moodie "removing to Minneapolis and establishing a voting residence there deprived him of his legal residence in North Dakota during the time he was in Minneapolis and it necessarily follows that he was not a resident of NorthDakota for the five years next preceding the election," the state Supreme Court found in a unanimous ruling.

Why does this matter in 2020?

A week ago, I wrote about Travisia Martin . She is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination for Insurance Commissioner on the June ballot. She is hoping to unseat incumbent Republican Jon Godfread.

The problem is, during the 2016 election cycle, she cast a ballot in Nevada.

This isn't in dispute.

Not only do Nevada's records document that vote, but Martin admitted to casting the ballot both to myself and other members of the news media.

She said she went back to vote in Nevada because she was still a recent arrival to North Dakota and didn't understand the voting requirements here yet. "It was easier for me to just go back to Nevada to vote," she said, telling me she had a friend drive her.


"I have a right to vote wherever I want to," she told me.

EMBED: Travisia Martin voting record from Nevada
Travisia Martin's voter registration, and voting history, from the State of Nevada

Residency laws, as they apply to things like voting and elections, can be a little tricky, but Martin's situation seems clear cut.

According to Nevada's Secretary of State , voting there requires a person to "be a resident of Nevada for 30 days preceding any election."

Nevada's voter registration form , which Martin would have had to complete to vote there, requires you to attest that you will be a resident of the state for 30 days before the election and that the address you're registering at is your "sole legal place of residence."

EMBED: Nevada voter registration form signature block
The signature block from the registration form Nevada citizens must fill out to be eligible to vote


If Martin is claiming she was a resident of North Dakota when she cast that ballot in 2016, it seems she violated Nevada's election laws.

Though even if Martin sticks to that story, it's not enough to shore up her eligibility here. Moodie tried that same argument in 1935, and North Dakota's courts were not persuaded.

"It is quite apparent from this record, that while Mr. Moodie had an intention to return sometime to North Dakota, he had the intent when he registered as a voter in Minneapolis, to cast his vote as he had always cast it and that he did not intend to exercise any rights of citizenship in North Dakota while he was in Minnesota but intended to exercise them in Minnesota," the court wrote.

The issue of residency for state officeholders has come up more recently, too. Last year, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, responding to a request from Speaker of the House Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, issued an opinion stating that "the five years of residency required by the North Dakota Constitution must run consecutively and 'immediately preced(e)' the appointment.

"It is my further opinion that the five-year minimum residency period must be met on the date an appointment becomes effective," he continued.

Stenehjem's opinion dealt with appointments to the Board of Higher Education, but it's the same residency requirement that applies to statewide elected officials. The official must be a resident for five consecutive years before taking office, and that requirement must be met on the date the person is to take office.

This is long-standing law in North Dakota, which has been implemented and vetted by all three branches of state government.

Martin is not going to get a pass on this, which is why she should resign her campaign immediately.

Not just because she failed to comply with the law, but also to make room for other candidates who may want to enter the race.

It's far too late to make the June primary ballot, but someone wishing to run in the November ballot as an independent still has until August to gather the requisite signatures.

What Martin shouldn't do is waste the electorate's time, and the resources of the taxpayers, insisting she's eligible for the office she's campaigning for when it's clear, based on her admissions, that she is not.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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