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By Sarah May on
 February 5, 2024

Federal judge rejects challenge to North Dakota mail-in ballot counting law

Touching on a topic that could well turn out to be a hot-button issue in the upcoming elections, a federal judge has just dismissed a challenge to a North Dakota law permitting mail-in ballots to be counted for a full 13 days after Election Day itself, as The Epoch Times reports.

The complaint at issue was filed this past summer by the Public Interest Legal Foundation, which did so on behalf of Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski, who is responsible for the enforcement of state law in relation to elections held in his jurisdiction.

According to Splonskowski, a conflict existed between state and federal law regarding mail-in ballots, and as such, he found himself in potential jeopardy of criminal prosecution.

The complaint in the case stated, “North Dakota law and Defendant's enforcement of it harm Mr. Splonskowski because they put him in the position of having to choose between dictates of state law to accept and allow votes to be cast after Election Day and federal law requires a single election day.”

Due to that conflict, the complaint contended, Splonskowski “faces an impossibility in enforcing the law” and also runs the risk of incurring a misdemeanor charge for a failure to perform duties as an election official or of drawing a felony count for certification of a false canvass of votes.

The remedy sought by Splonskowski was for the court to declare the illegality of North Dakota's effective extension of Election Day and to nullify via injunction the law that facilitates it.

However, as the Associated Press reports, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor disagreed and rejected the lawsuit altogether.

Traynor ruled that Splonskowski did not have legal standing to bring the case and also that he did not demonstrate any harm suffered as a result of the state law.

The judge also found insufficient allegations on Splonskowski's part that his constitutional rights were at risk of violation because of the statute at issue.

Traynor wrote, “According to Splonskowski, following his understanding of federal law will inevitably result in criminal prosecution under North Dakota law because he will have to forego his duty to follow North Dakota election law.”

Extrapolating his position further, Traynor added, “This is deeply concerning to the Court that an elected official openly advocates for violating the law he was elected to enforce because he has independently concluded it violates federal law.”

Judge Traynor, a judicial appointee of former President Donald Trump, also voiced concerns that if the challenge was permitted to proceed, it could jeopardize the ability of military service members and individuals living overseas to cast their ballots.

Following Traynor's decision, Lauren Bowman Bis of the Public Interest Legal Foundation lamented the outcome to The Epoch Times.

“We are disappointed in the Court's ruling. We believe unresolved elections undermine confidence and that federal law should be followed,” she said, while North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe took the opposite view, calling the decision a “win for the rule of law...and a win for our military and overseas voters.”

Written By:
Sarah May

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