North Dakota announces 3 measures for November ballot
Measures to reform the state's board of education and constitutional amendment process were approved for the ballot by legislators during the 2019 session. A new addition proposes a constitional amendment that would bring sweeping reforms to North Dakota election laws.
BISMARCK — North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Tuesday, Aug. 11, announced three ballot measures for November's general election.
Two measures were approved for the 2020 ballot during last year's legislative session, and the third was confirmed Tuesday.
The newest measure, known as Measure 3, was put forth by Fargo-based voting rights coalition North Dakota Voters First, who submitted nearly 37,000 signatures supporting their measure to the secretary of state in June.
The group's measure proposes an amendment to the North Dakota constitution that would make sweeping changes to the state's election laws. Among its most significant restructurings, the amendment would take legislative redistricting out of the control of elected officials and put it into the hands of the citizen-led North Dakota Ethics Commission, a reallocation of power NDVF organizers say would put an end to partisan gerrymandering.
The amendment would also introduce an open primary system in which all candidates, regardless of party, would appear on a single ballot, with the top four candidates advancing to the general election. The winner would then be decided in a ranked-choice vote. If implemented, North Dakota would become only the second state in the country, after Maine, to employ a statewide ranked-choice system.
“Voters frequently go to the polls and only have one option, as many incumbents run unopposed. Without competition, lawmakers secure reelection even if they don't have the best ideas or vision for their constituents," said Nicole Donaghy, an NDVF board member, in a statement responding to the measure's approval. "Measure 3 brings back choice to our elections, forcing legislators to listen to their constituents and ensuring they can’t coast by unopposed.”
The NDVF measure has also drawn criticism from opponents for receiving substantial out-of-state funding, and some claim petitioners misled signers by advertising one of Measure 3's less substantial provisions while obscuring its more significant proposals. Opponents say the group presented its petition as an amendment that would purely expand voting access for overseas military members.
“Out-of-state activist organizations should not be allowed to alter our state constitution to advance their radical political agenda,” said Tim Rasmussen, a spokesperson for the Brighter Future Alliance, which opposes the voting measure. “We need to ask ourselves why these outside groups are so interested in changing North Dakota’s constitution.”
A second ballot measure would seek to reform the state's board of higher education. A third measure would alter the process of amending the state constitution, requiring initiated constitutional measures approved by voters to be submitted to the Legislature. And if legislators do not approve a constitutional measure, it would be placed on the ballot again, and, if approved by voters, would become law.
Both of these measures were approved for November's ballot by North Dakota lawmakers in the 2019 session.
Jaeger said November's ballots will be drafted before the end of August.
A previous version of this story incorrectly described a ballot measure that would alter the process of amending North Dakota's constitution. The measure would require initiated constitutional measures approved by voters to be submitted to the Legislature before becoming law.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at firstname.lastname@example.org.