MINOT — A sprawling constitutional amendment that would make sweeping changes to the way North Dakotans vote is the sort of thing you come up with when you spend too much time reading Donald Trump’s social media ravings.
Supporters of the measure
but that’s facetious.
Our state’s elections already have integrity. Rather, this measure will make it far more difficult for North Dakota citizens to exercise their franchise for no good reason at all outside of motivations rooted in a belief that the 2020 election was somehow stolen — an article of faith for many Americans that is completely out of step with reality.
This measure would ban all early voting, except through absentee ballots. Voting by mail — a standard practice in many rural parts of North Dakota for decades now — would also be proscribed.
Every county would have to have a polling place open in every precinct, something that would be a huge local expense.
Don’t take my word for it. Read it for yourself.
Many of the initiatives in this measure seek to address concerns that aren’t concerns at all.
The measure would mandate the use of paper ballots, but we already do that. Even in parts of the state where votes are cast through touch screens, that’s just a tool to produce a paper ballot that can be reviewed by the voter before it’s cast. Using a touch screen is really no different from using a pen and paper.
This measure would require that ballots be kept on hand for six years. That seems excessive. Officials already keep them for 22 months, which is plenty of time for those concerned about election fraud to request them if they want them.
Our vote tabulators are not connected to the internet.
There is already a prohibition on the state using any private money to run elections.
Our state has never mass-mailed ballots. Not even during the pandemic, when the only thing mass-mailed to voters was a form to request an absentee ballot.
But this ballot measure isn’t just about elections. It’s about a lot of other things, too.
It allows any candidate representing any political party to place their name on the ballot simply by paying a $150 fee. The requirement that candidates gather petition signatures to make the ballot is banned.
It lengthens the time allowed to gather signatures for audit and recall petitions to one year. Referenda and ballot measures would have three years.
The measure requires all petitions be circulated only by U.S. citizens or “sovereign individuals,” the latter apparently a nod to
an extreme ideology
Petitioners would not have to be North Dakota citizens, however.
The measure would allow petitioners to be paid by signature, something that’s currently prohibited by law.
The measure would allow election results to be thrown out and a new election held based on a mere “preponderance of evidence” standard, which is an open invitation for endless election conspiracy-mongering.
Petitioners would have no criminal or civil liability for their actions while circulating a petition, which is an open invitation for fraud.
Petitioners would be free to work on any public property “with no restrictions of any type,” which is an open invitation for harassment.
The measure would prohibit the Legislature from initiating a ballot measure to amend the state constitution. The only way our constitution could be amended would be through ballot measure campaigns that, per the other provisions in the amendment, could pay their way onto the ballot and would have no civil or criminal liability for any fraud committed along the way.
Ironically, the Legislature
to be voted on next year that, if approved, would prohibit measures like this one that seek to bamboozle voters by including multiple unrelated topics.
Because that’s what this measure is. A list of grievances from Trump-addled, right-wing extremists that is about our elections, but also about a whole lot more.
It’s about cracking open the protections of our republican form of government and exposing it to the vagaries of angry populism.