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Port: Secretary of state says term limits amendment had thousands of invalid signatures, won't be on the ballot

Of the more than 46,000 signatures turned in, Jaeger's office said they could certify as valid only 17,265.

PHOTO: Term Limits ballot measure petition circulator
In this reader-submitted photo, a circulator for a proposed constitutional amendment that would implement term limits in North Dakota uses signs that falsely claim the petition is about term limits for Congress. (Courtesy photo)
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MINOT, N.D. — Over the weekend I reported that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation had gotten involved in reviewing signatures for a constitutional amendment to implement term limits for the governor and the Legislature.

Today Secretary of State Al Jaeger has determined, based on that investigation, that the amendment won't be placed on the ballot after tens of thousands of signatures were deemed invalid.

Roughly 31,000 signatures are required by law to get an amendment on the statewide ballot. The committee behind the term limits amendment turned over 46,000.

Among the problems were 15,740 signatures on 751 petitions that were invalidated because circulator signatures on the affidavits were "likely forged." Jaeger also stated in a letter to measure committee chairman Jared Hendrix that some circulators were not North Dakota residents, as required by law, and that a sampling of 87 circulators found that many had been paid per-signature bonuses.

Of the more than 46,000 signatures turned in, Jaeger's office said they could certify as valid only 17,265.

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Jaeger's letter states that this matter has been referred to Attorney General Drew Wrigley's office.

Under state law, petition circulators may be paid by the hour, but not by the signature.

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Democracy doesn't just mean participating in the political process. It also means abiding by the outcomes of that process, even when you're on the losing end. The most dangerous trend in America right now is the growing number of people who refuse to accept that.

This issue first came to my attention when Charles Tuttle, a Minot-based activist who works as a paid petition circulator, posted on Facebook that he'd been questioned by the BCI in regard to signatures he collected for the term limits measure.

There is some additional political intrigue around this measure.

The chairman of the measure committee, Mr. Hendrix, is also serving as a consultant for U.S. Senate candidate Rick Becker's campaign.

Mr. Becker is also on the sponsoring committee of the measure.

Becker has made an issue out of election integrity this cycle, pandering to the Trump wing of the North Dakota Republican Parties with promises to re-litigate the 2020 election if elected to the Senate.

Yet in 2013, Becker was one of just a handful of lawmakers in the North Dakota House of Representatives to vote against legislation that would have upped the penalties for petition fraud and other illegal election activities.

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That bill came just months after a 2012 incident that saw a group of North Dakota State University football players, who were collecting signatures for pay, commit petition fraud so pervasive that it kept two measures from being certified for the statewide ballot.

This story originally indicated that Mr. Hendrix was the manger of Mr. Becker's campaign. That was inaccurate. He is a consultant. The manager is Andrea Toman. The text has been changed to reflect that.

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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