North Dakota High Court Blocks Election-Reform Measure From November Ballot

The North Dakota Capitol building in Bismarck. (Bobak Ha’Eri via Wikipedia)

BISMARCK, N.D. — The North Dakota Supreme Court blocked an initiative seeking to reshape the state’s election process from making it to the November ballot.

In a unanimous decision, the justices granted a writ of injunction to keep Measure 3 off the ballot. The high court found petitioners engaged in deceptive practices while collecting signatures by omitting key information when presenting the measure to voters.

“The petition does not comply with the constitutional requirement that it contain the full text of the measure,” the court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “Embedding a statute into the Constitution, which by definition is a law inferior to the Constitution and subject to change by normal legislative procedure, would threaten the sanctity of our fundamental law.”   

Critics of Measure 3 reached similar conclusions on the matter, claiming the measure was presented to potential supporters by showcasing smaller parts of the measure while hiding the more substantive portions of the measures’ lofty election reform goals.

Before the Supreme Court issued the writ, Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger approved of the addition of Measure 3 to the November ballot. If passed, the measure would have reformed when ballots are sent to overseas military members and made changes to voting records.

It would have also fundamentally changed the North Dakota election process by putting redistricting in the hands of a commission, creating an open primary system and setting up ranked-choice voting where voters in general elections could select second, third and fourth-choice candidates — a system only one other state uses.     

Those changes quickly became a partisan brouhaha in the state with conservative groups crying foul about the tactics deployed to garner unknowing signatures.

The Brighter Future Alliance — a Measure 3 opposition group that includes three military service members — petitioned in early August to keep the measure off the ballot. The conservative group expressed satisfaction with the decision of the North Dakota Supreme Court.

“We are gratified the court agreed with our position to keep Measure 3 off the ballot. It was ill-conceived, poorly written and the forces behind the measure showed contempt for our initiated measure processes and safeguards,” the group said in a statement. “This outcome further demonstrates why we must not allow out-of-state special interests to tamper with our constitution and our elections to further their political agenda.”

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