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Commentary: Backers of ballot measure to create an ethics commission now maybe don’t want an ethics commission

Dina Butcher delivers a proposed ballot measure creating an ethics commission to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Pictures center, in the back, is fellow measure organizer Ellen Chaffee. Both are now asking supporters to consider a measure without an ethics commission.

As I noted earlier this month, there are a lot of left-of-center ballot measures in the works this election cycle, but it’s been a rocky road for some of them.

A measure aimed at overturning the state’s Sunday closing laws flopped when it’s organizer decided to run for the Legislature as a Democrat instead. A measure to increase the state’s oil extraction tax survived only for a couple of weeks before falling apart.

Now it seems there’s some chaos in the ranks of the proposed ballot measure to amend North Dakota’s state constitution to create an ethics commission. Organizers of that effort now want their supporters to sign off on two alternate iterations of the proposal in addition to the one already submitted to the Secretary of State’s office for approval.

A source familiar with the situation who spoke with me on condition of anonymity called the situation a “clusterf**k” and a “disaster” which hasn’t been “warmly received” by some measure organizers have asked for support.

My source shared with me an email sent out by Dina Butcher and Ellen Chaffee, the organizers of the effort which you can read in full below. They claim that the additional iterations of the proposed measure are all about getting a favorable ballot title.

“In order to maximize the likelihood of success in November, we have decided to submit two more petitions to the Secretary of State,” they write. “We will then use only one of the three, of course. Our goal is to secure from the Secretary and the Attorney General the most favorable possible ballot title, which will be what the voters see on their official ballots. The title plays a major role in a ballot measure’s success.”

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