Fargo libertarian seeks North Dakota’s U.S. House seat

Ballot access remains challenging for third-party contenders

Eric Olson

FARGO – A Fargo businessman seeking North Dakota’s U.S. House seat said he provides a viable alternative to mainstream politicians who’ve failed to address the nation’s problems.

Libertarian Eric Olson, 28, was endorsed by his state party last month and is in the process of gathering the 7,000 signatures non-traditional parties need in order to get a column on the June ballot.

Olson said “a lack of choices” drove him to enter the race, which also attracted five Republicans and one Democrat.

“I see serious financial problems in our country, unsustainable debt, and I see two parties with basically the same solution, which is to ignore it,” Olson said.

As a libertarian, Olson said he believes in more personal freedom and less government. He said he doesn’t think Democrats or Republicans practice the principles of their parties claim to hold.

“The Democrats aren’t really liberal; they don’t really protect our liberties,” Olson said, “and Republicans aren’t really conservative; they spend more money than the Democrats.”

Olson encouraged independents and infrequent voters to cast their ballots in his favor, even if only to make a statement.

“It’s more important than anything that we have someone else on the ballot to vote for, so people can cast a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the major parties,” he said.

Olson grew up in the Fargo-Moorhead area and now works full-time at IMS, an internet marketing company.

He also owns and operates his own small business – XPI Inventory Experts, which provides inventory services to other regional businesses.

Olson is among two statewide candidates North Dakota libertarians have endorsed so far for the 2012 election.

Fargo resident Joshua Voytek is running for the state Public Service Commission after an unsuccessful attempt in 2010.

As with any political party, though, libertarians have challenges to overcome in order to appear on North Dakota’s ballots.

The requirements are a non-issue for Republicans and Democrats, which each have a formal process to endorse candidates, but the barriers are harder for third-party contenders to overcome.

Because libertarians aren’t formally organized as a party in North Dakota, candidates running under the party’s banner must submit 7,000 signatures by April 13 to secure their own column on the primary ballot next summer.

Libertarians, like all other candidates, must also receive enough votes in June in order to compete in the general election.

North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger said election laws statewide candidates need to draw at least 300 votes in the primary in order to appear on the November ballot.

In 2010, North Dakota libertarians unsuccessfully sued in federal court to overturn a state law that dictates the requirements all candidates must abide by in order to appear on statewide ballots.

A federal judge ruled North Dakota’s law to limit ballot access is “nondiscriminatory and serves a compelling state interest.”

That decision was reaffirmed by a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In November, the Eighth Circuit denied another request from the libertarians, who wanted the case reheard by the entire appeals panel.