Judge denies temporary bid for out-of-state help for North Dakota congressional age limit measure

Oct 6, 2023, 11:38 AM

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota has denied a request from supporters of congressional age limits to temporarily allow out-of-state petition circulators as they seek to advance their proposed ballot measure.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland on Thursday said their request for a preliminary injunction “will be addressed in due course” and after North Dakota’s secretary of state and attorney general, who are named in the federal lawsuit, have been able to respond and a hearing can be held.

The measure’s backers sued over state constitutional provisions and laws that require that initiative petition circulators be North Dakota residents. Out-of-state petition circulators are currently subject to misdemeanor penalties of up to nearly a year’s imprisonment, a $3,000 fine, or both.

Hovland denied a requested temporary restraining order, which is a short-term, more immediate block than a longer-lasting preliminary injunction.

“In this case, it appears binding legal precedent from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals will make it difficult for the Plaintiffs to succeed on the merits,” Hovland wrote. “That being said, the Court will not prejudge the matter. Full briefing and a hearing are necessary before the Court can make a definitive ruling. A temporary restraining order is an extraordinary remedy.”

The precedent case he cited held that North Dakota laws requiring petition circulators to be state residents are constitutionally sound.

Under the proposed measure, no one who would turn 81 by the end of their term could be elected or appointed to the state’s U.S. House or Senate seats.

Measure supporters want to use out-of-state petition circulators to help gather more than 31,000 signatures of valid North Dakota voters by a February deadline to prompt a June 2024 vote. They had gathered more than 8,200 signatures as of Aug. 30, according to a previous filing.

The measure’s push comes amid health- and age-related concerns for federal officeholders, including late Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who died Sept. 29 at age 90 after recent health struggles, and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, who physically froze up twice last summer in front of reporters.

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Judge denies temporary bid for out-of-state help for North Dakota congressional age limit measure