Apparently the law is a mere technicality.
For the second time this summer, Judge Patricia Devaney has allowed an illegitimate candidate to appear on the general election ballot. Today Judge Devaney ruled that even though Lance Russell withdrew his name from the ballot for the District 30 Senate race in June, and even though state law says “no name so withdrawn shall be printed on the ballot,” Russell’s name may be printed on the ballot:
“There is no definitive language in either (state law) that unequivocally precludes an individual from being re-nominated, so long as it is done in a timely manner,” Judge DeVaney wrote in her decision.
She continued, “Given the legislative directive in SDCL 12-6-64 requiring the court to liberally construe these laws to carry out the intent of the voters, if lawmakers intended to preclude a previously withdrawn candidate from being renominated, it was incumbent upon them to clearly set forth such a prohibition” [link added; Bob Mercer, “Russell Can Be on the Ballot,” Aberdeen American News, 2018.08.14].
To be clear, SDCL 12-6-64 says, “The laws of this state pertaining to primary elections shall be liberally construed so that the real will of the voters may not be defeated by a mere technicality.” That one statute can reduce to meaninglessness two other statutes, all passed by the Legislature, strikes me as the pinnacle of absurdity and an invitation to mob rule, or party boss rule, or the rule of pretty much anything other than the rule of law.
I’m so mad, I’m just going to yield the floor to Gideon Oakes, the legitimate conservative candidate on the District 30 Senate ballot:
After weeks of uncertainty, backroom dealings and legal fights, a resolution to the chaotic District 30 Senate Republican primary has finally been found. Unfortunately, today’s decision was a major victory for career politicians in South Dakota.
By failing to uphold a plain-language interpretation of the law, the court has now set a precedent that politicians desperate to stay in power can effectively run for multiple offices, provided they can recruit enough supporters into precinct committee positions to re-nominate them each time they withdraw and move from office to office.
Senator Russell likes to talk about “the will of the people” and the 2,547 votes he received in the June primary, but in reality it was ultimately only 38 precinct committee members and one judge who put him back onto the ballot after he withdrew from the race.
What should be clear to everyone now is that personal ambition, political posturing and establishment political maneuvers matter more to Russell and to the South Dakota Republican Party than finding positive policy solutions for the voters of District 30.
Make no mistake, the South Dakota swamp is alive and well, and this hearing showed exactly why we need a change in Pierre. But while the political elite battle for a senate seat in courtrooms, the Gideon Oakes campaign will continue fighting for votes on doorsteps and in District 30 neighborhoods.
Regardless of who else is on the ballot, our message of life, liberty and limited government will stay the same as it’s been since we started this campaign back in March. We are giving the voters a better choice than either the Republican career politician or the Democrat candidate.
It’s time for an independent voice in Pierre. It’s time for Gideon Oakes [Gideon Oakes for District 30 Senate, Facebook post, 2018.08.14].
This summer’s big lesson on election law: lots of our statutes are meaningless. You can withdraw from a race and then jump back in. You can run for two, maybe three, maybe ten offices at once. You can royally botch your nominating petition, fail to present any legitimately notarized signatures, and still make the ballot. We’re just going to run elections whatever way the side with the most lawyers (and Russell had lawyers for the Pennington County GOP, the state GOP, and the state itself arguing on his behalf) want them run.
It’s as if we candidates were running a 10K. We were given the map before the start, and most of us have been conscientiously following the route. But some runners have cut through yards and parking lots, and since those cutters have a loud cheering section, the race officials are looking the other way. From all of us runners sweating an honest race, thanks for nothing, Judge.
Nobody likes cutters. Cutters shouldn’t win.