Stephanie Strong speaks... and she gets a judge to compel Secretary of State Jason Gant to do so too... in court.

Recall that Stephanie Strong made a brief news splash when she announced she would run against Rep. Kristi Noem in this year's primary but then failed to make the ballot through her own petitioneering incompetence. Recall that Secretary Gant got awfully particular about some candidate petitions, which just happened to come from Democrats and which a judge subsequently validated, but willfully ignored clear legal violations on other petitions which just happened to come from a highly placed Republican, Speaker Pro-Tem Brian Gosch, who notarized his own petitions.

Stephanie Strong wants a little petition justice. In a writ of mandamus filed on her request Friday in the Seventh Circuit Court in Pennington County, recent Daugaard appointee Judge Robert A. Mandel orders Secretary Gant to either kick Rep. Gosch off the District 32 November ballot or come to court in Rapid City on October 3 and explain why he doesn't have to fulfill his legal duties. (See full document at bottom of this post.)

When I heard Strong was leading the charge against Gant's dereliction of duty, I had my doubts that she could pull it off. Last spring she appeared to fumble her effort to challenge Secretary Gant's rejection of her own petitions by not answering the phone. She also demonstrated a tendency to lose her focus on relevant constitutional questions and melt down into Tea Party hysteria.

But her filing on Gant's malfeasance on Gosch's petitions looks pretty good. She establishes that she is a registered voter in District 32 with standing to challenge Gosch's presence on her ballot. She points out the specific violations on every one of Gosch's petition sheets:

  1. Brian Gosch certified the three petition sheets his wife Heather circulated, invalidating those sheets under South Dakota Codified Law 18-1-17, which says notaries public cannot place their seal on documents to which they are principal parties.
  2. Jayme Scherr notarized Rep. Gosch's fourth petition sheet. Jayme Scherr also signed that sheet as a nominating voter. Jayme Scherr thus invalidated that document.
  3. By misusing their notary seals, Gosch and Scherr also committed a Class 1 misdemeanor under SDCL 18-1-12.2. (Strong's application for writ of mandamus doesn't mention that statute, but I'm offering Strong some pro bono support.)

Strong bolsters her case by submitting as Exhibit B Kevin Woster's boffo June 16 article on the Gant-Gosch scandal, in which she highlights these two points:

  1. Gant said that he couldn't take Gosch back off the ballot, but that folks who felt strongly (hee hee!) about the issue could take it to court. You asked for it, Jason!
  2. Gant's SoS predecessor, Chris Nelson, said his office had a clear policy of rejecting petitions notarized by the candidates themselves.

Secretary Gant whimpered and simpered in the same article that he needs the Legislature to make his legal duties clear to him in the 2013 session. Thanks to Stephanie Strong's legal fight, we may have the pleasure of seeing a judge make the law clear to Secretary Gant sooner than that.