Legislature Gets Another Bill To Toughen Petitioning Laws

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Earlier this week I posted an interview with Rep. Keith Kepenich who has introduced a resolution to amend the state constitution adding a requirement that a constitutional measure put on the state ballot get signatures from at least half of the state’s counties in addition to the total number of signatures equaling 4% of the state’s population.

It would require that petitioners gather signatures out beyond the state’s urban areas, making the job quite a bit tougher.

Now another bill, no doubt a response to the tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures perpetrated by NDSU football players last year, has been introduced changing the requirements for who may circulate a petition.

SB2183, sponsored by Senator David Hogue from Minot, would require that anyone circulating a measure petition be a citizen of the state, a resident for at least three years and someone who has voted in at least one of the two preceding statewide elections.

Currently the only requirement to circulate petitions in North Dakota is that you be at least 18 years old.

I’ve written before about concerns with deep-pocket activist groups short-circuiting the democratic process by dumping big money into petition circulation efforts and putting their issues on the ballot. The groups which saw their petitions derailed by the aforementioned NDSU football players spent tens of thousands, and in one instance over well into the six-figure range, on their efforts.

This would be a big step toward ensuring that such efforts are conducted by actual North Dakotans, not professional political activists from out of state.

The question is, does it go too far?

Update: Here are some more bills addressing initiated measures.

SCR4006 would require any measure with a fiscal impact of more than $40 million to be subject to a legislative hearing and vote before taking effect. The measure would need to get at least 40% of the vote in each chamber to become law.

HCR3011 would require that any measure with a fiscal impact of more than $20 million be placed on the general election ballot, rather than the primary election ballot. It would also prohibit petition circulators from being paid, and similar to Kempenich’s bill, would require that statutory measures get signatures including at least 3% of the population of 50% of the state’s counties (4% for constitutional measures).

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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