Valley City City Attorney Russell Myhre will honor federal court Judge Daniel Hovland’s Wednesday’s ruling that the state is not allowed to enforce its law banning Election Day campaigning.
Wednesday Myhre said he had been expecting such a ruling invalidating North Dakota’s 100-year-old law.
“It follows a national trend in favor of free speech. It (Hovland’s ruling) was not a surprise,” Myhre said.
The city attorney said recently judges have been looking closely at Election Day campaigning restrictions “If they violate free speech. Most legal scholars thought this would happen soon.”
In his decision made in Bismarck, Hovland said the ban violates the free-speech rights of candidates and North Dakotans in general.
Hovland’s order grants a request for a preliminary injunction. It bars the state and local prosecutors from going after anyone who violates the ban.
Myhre said Valley City has traditionally had few problems with violations of election day campaigning ban law. “The biggest thing we have are yard signs and placement of yard signs,” Myhre said.
Myhre said before preliminary injunctions are granted, judges are almost certain the request for an injunction will be granted and the law overturned. “There has to be a high likelihood the judge will rule to make it permanent,” Myhre said.
Myhre implied North Dakota’s ban on Election Day campaigning has not been strongly enforced. “There are all kinds of technical violations (that are not enforced),” such as not removing political yard signs before election day,” he said.
“The original idea (for North Dakota adopting the ban) was so there were no last-minute attempts to influence the election,” Myhre said.
Myhre said he does not expect to enforce the ban this year, and he does not expect the preliminary injunction to be lifted before Election Day. “The timing for this ruling was likely intentional, so it would not be enforced for this election,” Myhre said.
Former North Dakota Republican state chairman Gary Emineth sued earlier this month to challenge the law.
The law is more than a century old. It says no one can do any campaigning on Election Day. Because of the law, candidates don’t run Election Day ads, and they take down their yard signs the night before the vote.
Violations of the law carry a $500 fine.