BOISE – Independent U.S. Senate candidate Rex Rammell will be on the November general election ballot after the Idaho Supreme Court rejected an effort by a group of 10 voters and the state Republican Party to oust him on grounds that he hadn’t collected enough valid signatures to qualify.
The justices ruled Wednesday, just hours after hearing arguments in the case. Rammell is among those seeking to replace outgoing U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, a Republican not seeking re-election after his arrest in a Minneapolis airport sex sting.
Chief Justice Daniel Eismann wrote in his order that Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa complied with state law in accepting Rammell’s name for the ballot after the signatures of 1,007 registered voters had been certified by county election officials.
Independent candidates must collect at least 1,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.
The ruling means Ysursa can give his final certification to the ballot Monday – in time for it to be printed and shipped to absentee voters including Idaho residents serving in the military overseas.
The justices rejected arguments by Charles McDevitt, the Idaho Republican Party attorney, that Ysursa would be committing an “illegal act” if he were to certify the ballot with Rammell’s name on it.
“Our No. 1 concern was to make sure the ballots were printed on time, and that will be accomplished,” Ysursa said. “The county clerks do an admirable job in checking signatures – it’s not fun.”
Democrat Larry LaRocco and Republican Jim Risch, Idaho’s lieutenant governor, are also running.
The high court order reaffirms a decision by Ysursa in early August not to eject Rammell, a former elk rancher who abandoned his Republican Party roots for an independent run.
In arguments Wednesday, Dennis Sallaz, an attorney for those trying to toss Rammell from the race, told the high court justices they were the best shot to make sure the election was fair.
“There is not 1,000 votes. There never has been,” said Sallaz, pointing to several allegedly tainted signatures in copies of the petitions included with the court documents. “This signature is an absolute forgery, an admitted forgery.”
Michael Gilmore, a deputy attorney general, argued Wednesday that a state district court – not the Idaho Supreme Court – was the appropriate venue to hear such a lawsuit.