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CITY, N.D. ( Organic farmer, environmentalist, singer songwriter, carpenter and political activist Harley James McLain, died February 9 at the age of 62.

The Jamestown College graduate ran for President, Congressman, and Agricultural Commissioner. One of his slogans; “I am a man out standing in my field.” reflected his wit and charm in the songs he wrote. He and his wife Julie Goeller met at a Democratic convention in 1982 and married in 1983. They had 3 children.

McLain, of Valley City filed a lawsuit in 1978 that resulted in the Eighth Circuit ruling that North Dakota’s party petition requirement of 15,000 signatures was unconstitutionally difficult. The lawsuit also determined that states must give each candidate and each party an equal opportunity to appear first on the ballot. The decision, rendered in 1980, was McLain v Meier, 637 F 2d 1159.

The basis for the decision was that the party petition, which had been created in 1939, was so difficult that it had only been used once, by the American Party in 1976. As a result of the decision, the number of signatures was lowered to 7,000. McLain v Meier was one of the first federal court decisions to determine that the way to evaluate the constitutionality of ballot access requirements is to examine how often they are used. Back in 1980, 15,000 signatures was 3.3% of the number of eligible signers of North Dakota. The decision showed that a petition hurdle under 5% could still be unconstitutional.

A memorial service for Harley McLain will be held at 11:00 AM on Saturday, February 15 at the Congregational United Church of Christ in Valley City.  Visitation will be held on Friday from 5:00pm until 7:00pm at the church and one hour before the service on Saturday morning.  A prayer service will be held at 7:00pm Friday evening at the church. Burial will be in Memory Gardens Cemetery near Valley City in the Spring.


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