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Group aiming to raise bar for changing North Dakota Constitution submits signatures

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Friday that the measure's sponsoring committee turned in what it says are about 33,600 signatures in support of making it more difficult to change the state's guiding legal document.

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Former North Dakota Adj. General Mike Haugen speaks at a press conference in support of a proposed ballot measure on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in the North Dakota Capitol.
Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service
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BISMARCK — A group of North Dakotans trying to raise the threshold for amending the state constitution has taken a step toward getting its measure to appear on the November ballot.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Friday, April 22, that the measure's sponsoring committee turned in what it says are about 33,600 signatures in support of making it more difficult to change the state's guiding legal document.

If Jaeger's office deems at least 31,164 signatures came from qualified North Dakota residents, the measure will be placed on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Under state law, constitutional measures can pass with a simple majority vote — a bar the group believes is too low. The measure would raise that requirement to 60% of the voters in an election. The proposal would also mandate that only a single subject can be addressed in a constitutional ballot measure.

The group's effort comes after several successful constitutional measures passed in recent years, including one that established the state Ethics Commission in 2018.

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Measure supporters, like Former North Dakota Adjutant General Mike Haugen, believe having an easy-to-change constitution trivializes the important document and leaves the door open for out-of-state interests to flood constitutional initiative campaigns with money.

Critics of the measure say it attempts to limit North Dakota citizens' participation in state government.

In 2020, voters overwhelmingly rejected a measure backed by the Legislature to give lawmakers a say in approving constitutional initiatives.

Turning in signatures does not guarantee a measure will appear on the ballot.

Jaeger announced last month that a proposed measure to set term limits on legislators and governors will not appear on the November ballot after thousands of signed petitions failed to meet legal standards. Backers of the term limits measure have vowed to fight back, accusing Jaeger's office of improperly tossing the signatures.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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