Jaeger says measure to ban big-game hunting in fenced areas stays despite flawA flaw in a voter initiative that proposes banning big-game hunting within fenced areas wasn’t significant enough to hold up a statewide vote on the measure, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Friday.
BISMARCK (AP) — A flaw in a voter initiative that proposes banning big-game hunting within fenced areas wasn’t significant enough to hold up a statewide vote on the measure, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Friday.
Jaeger is running for re-election in November, and the Republican secretary of state’s Democratic opponent, Corey Mock, said the error was another example of Jaeger’s administrative sloppiness.
Opponents of the proposal, which is listed as Measure 2 on the November ballot, recently raised questions about whether the original initiative petition was correctly drafted. More than 13,000 North Dakotans signed the petition, enough to qualify the measure for the Nov. 2 ballot.
The measure seeks to add two new sections to a chapter of North Dakota law that regulates livestock dealers, auction barns, meat inspection and animal health. It would ban game farm operators from selling chances to shoot big game, such as deer or elk, and “exotic mammals” within a fenced enclosure.
North Dakota’s initiative process allows residents to propose new laws and state constitutional amendments by gathering enough petition signatures. The secretary of state reviews initiative petitions before they are circulated to make sure they are in proper form. He cannot change their content.
Because an initiative petition becomes part of state law if approved by voters, it is formatted much like bills introduced in the North Dakota Legislature. New language in those bills is underlined to show lawmakers what changes are being made, and language that is being replaced or repealed is crossed out.
On the fenced-hunting petition, an explanatory paragraph said any new language that the measure added to state law should be underlined. If any material in the proposed law was not underlined or crossed out, “the material is existing law that is not being changed,” the paragraph says.
Although the measure adds two new sections to state law, neither one was underlined in the petition, which implied the sections were “existing law that is not being changed.” However, the petition includes two separate mentions that the measure adds “a new section” to state law.
Jaeger said he became aware of the problem in early August, when initiative petitions had to be turned in to qualify for the November ballot. He said he sought legal advice from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office and concluded the oversight did not make the measure ineligible for a vote.
“Yes, it should have been underscored when the petition was circulated. That was something that wasn’t caught,” Jaeger said. “When it was noticed, a determination was made ... that (the error) wasn’t enough to invalidate the petition.”
Jaeger did disqualify a separate initiative, aimed at repealing North Dakota’s restrictions on pharmacy ownership, because organizers did not include a list of the measure’s sponsors on petitions that North Dakotans were asked to sign.
Jaeger said his decision on the pharmacy measure was different because the North Dakota Constitution requires that a list of sponsors be part of an initiative petition. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld Jaeger’s reasoning.
Mock, who is trying to unseat the 18-year incumbent, said the oversight was another in what he called a litany of Jaeger’s administrative mistakes. They include leaving a Libertarian candidate for public service commissioner off the June primary ballot because of misplaced forms in Jaeger’s office, and repeated delays in an office technology project that will allow businesses to file routine state paperwork online, Mock said.
“In North Dakota you’ve got a secretary of state that is proud of the attention to detail, and here’s an example where detail was overlooked once again,” Mock said. “It’s a sign that maybe it’s time for some new management.”
Roger Kaseman, of Bismarck, the chairman of the campaign to ban big-game hunting in fenced enclosures, said he did not believe the lack of underlined language made a difference in signature gathering.”Nobody was confused over it,” Kaseman said Friday. “It was pretty straightforward.”
Shawn Schafer, a spokesman for the measure’s opposition, said his wife had noticed the problem after the initiative petitions were submitted Aug. 4.
“We just kind of dropped it for now,” said Schafer, who is director of the North American Deer Farmers Association. “It’s something we could challenge if need be, after the fact.”
Schafer said he did not blame Jaeger for the oversight, and added that he did not want the Measure 2 campaign to become part of the race between Jaeger and Mock.
“Right now, it is nonpartisan,” Schafer said. “We have the support of Republicans and Democrats, and to me it is not a party issue. I would sure hate to see it become that.”