A bill that would increase requirements for those circulating petitions for ballot initiatives drew questions Friday from North Dakota legislators.
The House Political Subdivisions Committee heard from Sen. David Hogue, R-Minot, on Senate Bill 2183. It would require anyone who circulates a petition to be a qualified voter and a resident of North Dakota for at least two years. The circulator would have to sign an affidavit to that effect.
Hogue compared the actions of a petition circulator to that of a legislator. He said the circulators basically are rounding up support for something that can impact the entire state and violations can have far greater ramifications than individual voter fraud.
“The ability to fraudulently affect the outcome of an election is far greater,” Hogue said. “I think there should be a far more rigorous standard.”
Hogue said it’s important to maintain the integrity of the process and he referred to the nearly one dozen paid petition circulators charged in September 2012 for facilitating election fraud and filing false statements for two ballot measures.
Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, asked Hogue if banning payment of petition circulators would have prevented last year’s fraud. Hogue replied that he didn’t believe so.
Rep. Pat Hatlestad, R-Williston, asked if circulators in the 2012 case could be classified as petitioners.
“They just sat down at the table and signed names,” Hatlestad said.
Hogue replied that he saw a petition circulator as someone with a clipboard and petition sheets, which he said applied in that case.
“People have the right to initiate measures. Making it harder to do so is stifling,” said Rep. Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton.
No action was taken on SB2183 on Friday. Its sponsors along with Hogue are Sen. Rich Wardner,
R-Dickinson, and Reps. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, Larry Bellew, R-Minot, Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck, and Mike Nathe, R-Bismarck.