Port: North Dakotans, if you were recently asked to sign a petition to make it easier for soldiers to vote, you may have been duped

IMAGE: ND Voters First Screencapture
A screen capture of the website for North Dakota Voters First, a political group funded by left-leaning groups from Colorado, Texas, and Massachusetts which purports to represent North Dakota voters.
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MINOT, N.D. — A group calling themselves North Dakota Voters First is circulating petitions to make several sweeping changes to the North Dakota constitution.

Because they're oh-so-transparent and ethical, they changed their group's name from the last election cycle when they called themselves North Dakotans for Public Integrity, a misnomer since they were bankrolled by out-of-state left-wing groups and a cadre of Hollywood activists .

In this election cycle so far, "North Dakota" Voters First has been funded exclusively by left-wing groups from Massachusetts, Texas, and Colorado, as you can see from this financial disclosure filed with the Secretary of State's office:

Because they're oh-so-transparent and ethical, the signature collectors (likely paid) who are circulating their petitions to put their amendment on the November ballot are being deceitful in how the issue is presented.


I recently got a call from a state lawmaker who ended up signing the petition because, when asked to sign outside his local post office, the signature collector said the amendment would change absentee voting laws to make it easier for deployed soldiers to cast ballots.

He was chagrined to learn that he signed a petition to support other, far more controversial things too.

His wasn't the first complaint I've heard about North Dakota Voters First and the tactics they're using.

Reforms to military voting are a part of the measure, but only a tiny part.

The full measure (read it below) would also eliminate our current process for nominating candidates for elected office. It would require that voting machines produce a paper record. It would replace our current general election vote with ranked-choice voting and put the new ethics commission in charge of drawing the state's legislative districts.

Whatever your opinions of each of these proposals on their own - paper records for voting machines and the changes for military/overseas voting would be widely supported, I believe- I'd argue that it's unethical to lump so many disparate policy proposals together on one ballot measure.

I'd argue it's downright deceitful to ask citizens to support this measure by presenting them just one non-controversial facet of its reforms, obscuring the more controversial aspects.

Yet that's what has happened, and so far, I've heard from nearly two dozen voters who regret signing the petition for this measure after learning the full scope of what they just supported. Shame on those voters for not thoroughly reading and understanding what they signed, but also shame on North Dakota Voters First for playing a bait-and-switch in their pitch for the measure.


Changes to the law, such as shifting the responsibility for redistricting away from the Legislature or moving to ranked-choice voting for elections, ought to be weighed individually on their own merits.

They shouldn't be voted on as a package of changes.

North Dakotans ought to vote down this measure on that basis, alone.

This is also a blatant abuse of our initiated measure process. These people, even as they tout themselves as paragons of ethics and transparency, are trying to pull a fast one.

They paid their way onto the ballot with their "ethics" measure last cycle (they reported spending about a quarter of a million dollars just on signature collectors), and this cycle they're trying to dupe North Dakotans again.

Heck, with their paid petitioners facing challenges because of the COVID-19 pandemic, these people have even filed a lawsuit to dispense with the need to collect in-person signatures .

They want to be able to petition their way onto the ballot without the bother of actually, you know, petitioning.

This is arrogance.


This is an insult to the intelligence of North Dakota voters.

Before we even begin a debate about the merits of its proposals, this ballot measure ought to be discarded for the dishonest way it's been pushed.

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Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

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 Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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