A federal judge on Wednesday barred state and local prosecutors from enforcing North Dakota’s ban on Election Day campaigning, saying the century-old restriction violates political speech rights. “There is no valid justification for the law in modern-day society, nor any compelling state interest offered to support its continued existence,” Judge Daniel Hovland wrote in his 13-page decision. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Wednesday that Hovland’s ruling will not be appealed. He will ask the Legislature next year to repeal the law, Stenehjem said.
Gary Emineth, a former North Dakota Republican state chairman, sued last month to challenge the law, saying he wanted to urge people to support GOP candidates on Election Day and leave signs standing in the yard of his home in Lincoln, southeast of Bismarck.
The lawsuit named Stenehjem; Al Jaeger, North Dakota’s secretary of state; and Richard Riha, the top prosecutor in Burleigh County, as defendants. Emineth lives in Burleigh County.
The law prohibits anyone on Election Day from attempting to influence others to vote for, or oppose, any candidate or initiative on the ballot. Violations carry a $500 fine.
It bars the airing of radio or television ads and the publication of print advertising. It prohibits Election Day leafleting and requires people with political signs in their yards to take them down. The law exempts only billboards and bumper stickers.
The language in the law spotlighted by Hovland’s ruling was first approved by the Legislature in 1911.