North Dakotans can now campaign for their favorite candidates on Election?Day, thanks to a ruling this week by Judge Daniel Hovland.
The question is, will dropping the century-old restriction matter? We doubt it.
Hovland barred state and local prosecutors form enforcing the state's ban on Election Day campaigning, writing that the ban violates political speech rights. Gary Emineth, a former N.D. Republican state chairman, challenged the law, which forced residents to take down yard signs and prohibited most forms of advertising, except for bumper stickers and billboards. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he will not appeal Hovland's ruling, and will ask the 2013 Legislature to repeal the 1911 law.
The law was quaint in its day, but Stenehjem had argued it was unconstitutional as far back as 1999, when he was a state senator. State lawmakers have declined through the years to repeal the law, which is somewhat outdated, considering the evolution of campaigning, especially in recent years. Log onto a computer and you'll be bombarded with constant campaign messages. Leaving yard signs up for one more day or seeing other forms of advertising on Election Day likely isn't going go sway anyone's decision.
Honestly, we're surprised the law wasn't challenged and repealed long ago. We certainly understand laws that restrict campaigning near polling places on Election?Day, and we would expect North Dakota lawmakers to amend the broader ban to something similar to what other states have on the books.