February 26th, 2024

Judge dismisses election official’s mail ballot lawsuit in North Dakota

By Jack Dura, The Associated Press on February 2, 2024.

FILE - Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski poses July 7, 2023, in front of the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D. Republicans are challenging extended mail ballot deadlines in at least two states in a move that could have severe implications for mail voting nationwide ahead of this year's presidential election. A lawsuit filed last week in Mississippi follows a similar one last year in North Dakota, both brought in heavily Republican states before conservative federal courts. (AP Photo/Jack Dura, File)

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A federal judge in North Dakota has dismissed a lawsuit challenging the acceptance of mail-in ballots after Election Day brought by a county election official and backed by a legal group aligned with former President Donald Trump.

In his Friday ruling, U.S. District Judge Daniel Traynor said Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski lacked standing, did not allege a specific constitutional violation, is not conflicted by his oath of office, and that the state election director named in the lawsuit “is not a potential cause for Splonskowski’s alleged injuries because she has no enforcement authority.”

North Dakota Republican Secretary of State Michael Howe welcomed the ruling as “a win for the rule of law in North Dakota and a win for our military and overseas voters.”

In September, the judge had asked the parties whether he should dismiss the case because Splonskowski had no approval from the county commission to sue in his official capacity as auditor. He said he brought the lawsuit against the state’s election director as an individual and not in an official capacity.

Splonskowski, backed by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, filed the lawsuit in July. He argued he “faces an impossibility in enforcing the law” around whether to accept mail-in ballots received after Election Day, alleging federal and state law conflict as to when those ballots must be turned in. He claimed he risks criminal penalties.

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