State Supreme Court hears District 8 lawsuit

Published: Nov. 20, 2020 at 2:17 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The State Supreme Court heard oral arguments from multiple entities involved in the District 8 case Friday.

David Andahl’s sudden passing from COVID-19 left a vacant State House seat, and also left state leaders wrestling for the power to appoint someone to replace him.

The players vying to put someone in the District 8 House seat are Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., who appointed Wade Boeshans, the District Republican Party, who nominated incumbent Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, and the Democratic-NPL Party who says candidate Kathrin Volochenko should be seated as she received the third highest number of votes.

Finding a solution in the District 8 case is uncharted political territory.

“There is no procedure right now, so then the question is ‘what should this court do?’” asked attorney David Thompson, representing the Democratic-NPL Party.

The case was brought to the State Supreme Court to be resolved, yet there’s still discussion about whether it should be solved elsewhere.

Justice Daniel Crothers asked, “Is that that we should do nothing?”

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said“I think you easily could do nothing. This is entirely within the sphere of the legislative assembly to resolve. There really is nothing that needs to be done.”

David Andahl was elected by a 3 to 1 margin over third place finisher Kathrin Volochenko following an election where the district party campaigned for Andahl, even after his passing.

“It worked. Deceased candidate Andahl was elected by an overwhelming majority of the voters in District 8,” said attorney John Olson, representing the District 8 Republican Party.

Olson claims the governor’s after-the-fact appointment therefore disenfranchises voters.

But Gov. Burgum’s legal counsel said it’s a Republican appointment either way, whether it’s made by the district party or by the governor’s office.

“No solution available to the Court or the Legislature is going to make the person they voted for a member of the legislature. It’s simply impossible. How’re the voters of District 8 more disenfranchised by a Republican governor appointing a Republican to the vacant seat?” said attorney Robert Pathroff

Justice Daniel Crothers pointed out that in the legislative case, voters have an option to petition for a special election if they’re unsatisfied with the District 8 party’s appointment of Jeff Delzer. There’s no current clear option for voters to do that under the governor’s appointment.

If the court doesn’t make a decision in time, Justice Crothers asked what would happen then, “What happens? Who resolves that question?”

“The court has to and we have to bring the same lawsuit on Dec. 1,” said Pathroff.

On December First, newly-elected lawmakers are sworn in and transition into their roles.

The State Supreme Court’s decision will need to be a speedy one in this case.

Your News Leader will continue to stay informed on this case and update you accordingly.

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