North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says Governor Burgum cannot make an appointment to the Legislature, to fill a vacant seat caused by the death of a candidate.
That candidate – David Andahl – died in early October of COVID-19. His name stayed on the ballot, and he won enough votes to be elected.
In an opinion, Stenehjem said state law allows the District 8 Republican executive committee to appoint someone to fill that seat. But Burgum said his legal staff believes that the state Constitution gives the Governor the authority to fill a vacancy in any office. He said the Legislative vacancy statute does not apply, because Andahl was not a qualified elector on the day of the election, and wasn’t eligible for election to that seat.
Burgum appointed Wade Boeshans to take Andahl’s place.
In a statement, Stenehjem said the Governor has no authority to declare an election null and void. And he said Attorney General’s opinions have the effect of law, until challenged in the courts.
Meanwhile, Democrats say the seat should go to candidate Kathrin Volochenko, who finished third in the balloting. The party said Volochenko finished second among qualified candidates. The Democrats called Burgum’s action “a macabre power grab.”