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Letter: Our government should be for all, not just special interests

Letter: Our government should be for all, not just special interests

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Since its founding more than 130 years ago, North Dakota has placed its trust in the judgment of its citizens. Our state constitution declares, “All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people, and they have a right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require.” 

The time has come for us to exercise our right to reform our government to maintain the public good. Over the past few decades, our government has been taken over by partisan lawmakers beholden to special interests, lobbyists and party bosses. We see longtime legislators draw their own district lines to ensure reelection while party bosses pick their preferred candidates, send tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash their way, and block any candidates from entering who won’t listen to them. In this process, we have lost our power, no longer able to truly pick our lawmakers or decide the direction of our government. 

I uphold the values of the State Constitution and its trust in the judgment of all of our citizens.

This belief has informed my 50 years of work with the League of Women Voters, encouraging North Dakotans to actively participate in their government. It has led me to personally get involved with my government and run for office, in nonpartisan races and as a proud Republican. And now, it has led me to listen to our state constitution and join 31 other North Dakotans to sponsor Measure 3, which will reform our government and allow us to put more power back in the hands of citizens, not wealthy donors and party insiders. 

Measure 3 is supported by a citizen-driven, grassroots group of North Dakotans from all political backgrounds who worked to place a measure on the November ballot that will secure our elections, increase competition and choice, and return power to the people. 

The measure has three parts. First, it will protect and secure our state’s elections. Our measure would require voting machines to produce a paper record of each vote cast, mandate a timely audit of the vote count that is then reported to the public, and extend the deadline for overseas military personnel to return their ballots. While our elections have historically been safe from outside interference, these practical measures will help guarantee the integrity of our state and local elections in future decades. 

Second, it will give North Dakotans more choices at the polls. The status quo has eliminated any semblance of choice or competition in our elections. In North Dakota, nearly 94% of incumbents ran unopposed in their party’s primary between 2010 and 2014, 16 points higher than the national average. During that same period, nearly one in four races had no candidate from one of the two major parties. That means that voters went to the polls and only had one option, regardless of how they felt about their legislator’s values or record.

Our measure will eliminate partisan primaries and create a single, non-partisan primary that allows voters to choose the candidate with the best ideas. It also establishes ranked choice voting, which gives voters greater choice and ensures elections are only won by candidates who have a majority of support. 

Third, it will take power away from special interests and give it back to citizens. Currently, lobbyists, special interests and party insiders control our government and rig the system to all but guarantee their reelection. Measure 3 will take the power of drawing political boundaries away from the politicians and put it in the hands of our state’s voter-approved independent, nonpartisan state ethics commission, ensuring politicians can no longer pick their voters. 

Throughout my career, I have worked with North Dakotans from all across the political spectrum to try and give all voters, regardless of political party, more choice, more trust, more transparency, and more power. Our current status quo was not created by either Republicans or Democrats. Our status quo exists because there is too much power in the hands of too few people. And when the scales tip too far in favor of established political power, citizens lose – Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike. 

This November, you have the opportunity to reset the scales and return power to the people. I urge you to join me and vote yes on Measure 3.

Lois Ivers Altenburg, Fargo, is a volunteer with North Dakota Voters First.

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