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Measure that would change North Dakota election processes qualifies for November ballot

Measure that would change North Dakota election processes qualifies for November ballot

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Zach Packineau and Amy Jacobson, with North Dakota Voters First, use dollies to transport boxes holding more than 36,000 petition signatures to the secretary of state's office after the group held a small rally on the south lawn of the Capitol on July 6. The group has succeeded in getting a constitutional initiated measure aiming to make changes to state election law placed on the November ballot.

Supporters of a proposed constitutional initiative for sweeping election changes in North Dakota have gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The group submitted petitions last month to Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who had until this week to review them. Supporters needed 26,904 valid signatures and submitted more than 36,000. Jaeger on Tuesday said about 4,300 were rejected for various reasons, which still left 32,538 qualifying signatures, which was well more than enough.

The ballot text will be drafted by the end of the month, Jaeger said.

The sweeping, 3-page proposal lays out new election processes to be inserted into North Dakota's constitution, including:

  • Earlier transmission of ballots to eligible military and overseas voters
  • Paper records of each vote cast
  • Election audits of one or more random precincts of each legislative district
  • Open primaries and instant runoffs for statewide, legislative and congressional offices
  • Drawing of legislative districts by North Dakota's Ethics Commission rather than the Legislature
  • Subdivision of House districts 

“Measure 3 makes our elections more secure and helps prevent vote tampering and fraud," said Carol Sawicki, of Fargo, chair of North Dakota Voters First, which pushed the measure. “Casting an informed vote is a responsibility of every citizen. Our state should honor that responsibility with a system that ensures all legal votes are counted and that we have the right security in place to trust the results.”

Group board member Nicole Donaghy, of Bismarck, said the measure also will give voters more choice.

"Voters frequently go to the polls and only have one option, as many incumbents run unopposed," she said. "Without competition, lawmakers secure reelection even if they don't have the best ideas or vision for their constituents."

Brighter Future Alliance, which opposes the measure, calls North Dakota Voters First "merely a front for radical political organizations, Hollywood elites and East Coast liberals seeking to overturn political institutions and remake the state and nation in their image."

The alliance claims the measure will reduce state House representation for residents, manipulate voting and make it easier for liberal candidates to win.

“It was obvious that the sponsors are cynically hoping the inclusion of more benign provisions like a minor extension for overseas military voters from 46 to 61 days and election security measures already used in North Dakota will cause voters to overlook the more serious implications of the constitutional measure,” opposition spokesman Tim Rasmussen said. 

There will be three measures on the general election ballot Nov. 3. The other two were placed there by the 2019 Legislature. One would increase the membership and term limits of North Dakota's State Board of Higher Education. The other would involve the Legislature in approving constitutional initiatives. Two groups seeking to legalize recreational marijuana failed to get on the ballot this year.

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