North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin A. Jaeger's office confirmed Wednesday, June 23, that a petition aimed at recalling Gov. Doug Burgum and his Lt.Gov. Brent Sanford has been approved for circulation.
According to the petition request, the group being spearheaded by Michael Coachman, accuses the governor of “contempt of the voters and negligence in/of the office.”
North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Perrie Schafer issued a statement in response to the news from the Secretary of State regarding the recall petition.
"This recall effort is misguided and will undoubtedly fail. Governor Burgum was overwhelmingly re-elected by North Dakota voters less than one year ago by nearly the largest margin of any candidate for governor in the nation," Schafer said.
The number of signatures required for a recall election of a state official is governed by the North Dakota Constitution Article Ill, Section 10, which states, "any elected official of the state, of any county or of any legislative or county commissioner district shall be subject to recall by petition of electors equal in number to twenty-five percent of those who voted at the preceding general election for the office of governor in the state, county, or district in which the official is to be recalled .. ."
According to the Secretary of State's office, the number of signatures required on petitions to recall Burgum and Sanford would have to surpass 89,464.
The recall chairman of the sponsoring committee is well known to western North Dakotans, especially in Dickinson. Coachman ran for Governor and attracted a large following during the 2020 general election, gaining momentum in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. Coachman rallied supporters when he cited the responsive actions taken by state lawmakers and the governor as violations of the liberty of the people — a message that resonates with many in the western part of the state who viewed South Dakota as the model for handling COVID-19 and by and large rejected recommendations from Bismarck.
In October of 2020, Coachman garnered one of the largest political gatherings in Dickinson as he addressed the state of the state and his plans to return government to the people if elected.
"Join the constitutional movement," he said to cheers from eager attendees, many of whom were disillusioned with the then state of affairs and government mandates. "We’re not free. We’re under bondage and being told to wear a mask when we don’t need to. Our liberties are being eroded, our personal freedoms are anything but, and the list goes on. Everything that should not even be considered for discussion, like red flag laws, are happening left and right when they shouldn’t. These things are already spelled out.”
Coachman and fellow petition circulators must circulate each petition in its entirety and witness each signer affixing his or her signature to the petition, according to state law. Both the circulator and signer of the petition must be a qualified elector of North Dakota and the circulator must acknowledge before a notary public that each signature was placed on the petition in the circulator's presence.
A lifelong public servant, Coachman served in the United States Air Force from 1977 until his retirement in 1997. Previously on the ballot in failed bids for North Dakota Secretary of State in 2018, North Dakota Lieutenant Governor in 2012 and Governor in 2020, Coachman said he yearns for a return to the fundamentals of governance with a constitutional administration.
According to the petition, the political subdivision sponsoring are comprised of Coachman, Joel Hylden, Terry Kemmet, Michelle Lynn Biegler and Joddie R Samuelson.
Petition signees must be 18 years-old; have lived in North Dakota for 30 days and be a United States citizen. All signers must legibly print their name; complete residential, rural route or general delivery address; and date of signature. Every qualified elector signing the petition must do so in the presence of the individual circulating the petition.
The Dickinson Press attempted to reach the Governor's Office for comments.