South Dakota Republican Party chair Dan Lederman is having all sorts of fun using legal technicalities to keep other parties’ candidates off the ballot and preserve his one-party regime. In his latest attack, Lederman is using party resources to sue to block the Constitution Party’s effort to nominate statewide and Legislative candidates.
Now the Constitution Party has brought this trouble upon themselves. If they hadn’t fractured into warring factions, failed to nominate candidates at their July 14 convention, and wound up with two competing factions staging competing “conventions” on August 14, the last possible day to place candidates on the November ballot, Lederman’s lawsuit would have no ground. But because of undocumented changes in Constitutionist leadership, Lederman’s lawsuit rightly contends that the actual, legally recognizable chair of the Constitution Party, Joel Bergan, filed none of the notices of 2018 Constitution Party conventions and therefore that none of those conventions can place candidates on the ballot. (See more legal footnotage under our CP conversation here.)
Interestingly, for all of his legal gymnastics, Lederman missed a far simpler argument delegitimizing the August 14 conventions. The South Dakota Constitution Party bylaws, which Lederman frothingly cites and attaches to his lawsuit, impose the following convention deadline:
The Call for the State Convention, to be held in election years no later than 60 days following the South Dakota Primary elections, shall be issued by the duly elected Chairman of the State Central Committee [Constitution Party of South Dakota bylaws, Article 7 Section 1, as adopted for 2016–2020, 2016.04.20].
The primary happened June 5. 60 days following is August 4, this Saturday. August 14 is too late. By their own bylaws, which have statutory force, the Constitutionists cannot convene on August 14.
I don’t have to read on to Article 7 Section 2 and ask whether the Constitution Party published notice of either August 14 meeting in a newspaper of general circulation at least fourtreen days prior to the convention. The CP missed its 60-day deadline. The party central committee could get together at the Walmart Subway today and strike that deadline from its bylaws by a three-fourths vote (Article 14), but since the August 14 events were called in violation of current bylaw, those events are null and void. Following a bylaw amendment, the CP would have issue a new convention call (just one this time, shall we?), but notice of a new, entirely legal convention still has to go to the Secretary of State 30 days before it happens, so a convention announced today couldn’t happen until September 1, and that’s well past the August 14 nomination deadline.
The Constitution Party claims to defend the original intent of the Constitution and seeks to “limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional powers.” Yet by failing to follow its own bylaws, the Constitution Party has denied ballot access to all of its candidates. That’s a shame—as a democrat, I want more parties engaging in elections, and as a Democrat, I want more alternative arch-conservatives on the ballot to dilute the Republican vote and boost Democratic chances (why do you think Dan Lederman is working so hard to legally legerdemain the CP off the ballot?). But when you can’t avoid drama and follow your own bylaws, you can’t expect a place on the ballot, let alone a place in actual government.
By the way, the Constitution Party has deleted all announced candidates from its website except for Terry LaFleur for Governor and Rick Gortmaker for Lieutenant Governor. Gone are Legislative candidates Janette McIntyre and Dave Osmotherly.