Measure Committees Shouldn’t Be Let Off The Hook In Petition Fraud
Yesterday in an editorial the Bismarck Tribune cast the backers of two initiated measures – one to create a board of environmental activists in state government and another to legalize medicinal marijuana – as the victims of the criminal activities of a group of NDSU football players and a few others who forged petition signatures.
The players have now admitted under oath to fraudulently filling out the petitions but, thanks to the ethically bankrupt sort of leadership we have in our university system, they will still be playing football this weekend. But I digress.
It is, indeed, said that the democratic process in North Dakota was derailed by the actions of these people, but do the backers of these petitions really deserve to be let off the hook? I’m not so sure. Case in point, these interesting paragraphs from the Fargo Forum indicating that Dave Schwartz of the medicinal marijuana group may well have broken the state’s laws regarding pay-per-signature:
Williams told investigators he was initially paid $15 an hour to collect signatures for an initiative seeking to legalize marijuana for medical use, and he said he was expected to get at least 60 signatures during an eight-hour shift.
He said Dave Schwartz, who was running the petition drive for the ballot measure, later offered to pay him $18 an hour if Williams got at least 80 signatures a shift, the court documents say.
Williams said at first he collected valid signatures for petitions he circulated, but he later used phone books to come up with names, and Williams told investigators perhaps half of the signatures he turned in had been forged, court documents state.
Schwartz said Friday that people who circulated petitions for the medical marijuana measure were paid anywhere between $15 and $18 an hour. He stressed that pay was based on performance and not on any specific number of signatures being collected.
According to the article, the NDSU players who collected signature for the conservation measure also had quotas to meet.
LeeAnn Oliver, an official with the Secretary of States office, noted that paying people per signature was illegal, but wasn’t certain that quotas would be illegal under the letter of the law. I think it probably would be. What’s the difference between “I’ll pay you $2 per signature” and “I’ll pay you $18/hour for 80 signatures.”
Nothing, really. What’s more, it’s been reported that thousands of the signatures turned in were done in the same handwriting. This was one of the early clues picked up on by state officials indicating that there was something fraudulent about these petitions. Were the initiated measure committees in charge of these petitions not even bothering to look at the petitions? Or were they aware of the fraud?
Either way, both committees exercised a shocking level of negligence in this matter. Both should be held accountable along with the players they hired.Tags: NDSU, ndsu bison, North Dakota News, north dakota state university