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Marsy’s Law approved for North Dakota ballot

BISMARCK - Voters will decide in November whether Marsy's Law should be North Dakota's law. The proposed constitutional amendment aimed at expanding the rights of North Dakota crime victims will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, Secretary of State Al ...

BISMARCK – Voters will decide in November whether Marsy’s Law should be North Dakota’s law.

The proposed constitutional amendment aimed at expanding the rights of North Dakota crime victims will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Monday.

Sponsors needed 26,904 valid signatures to get the measure on the ballot. They submitted 44,198 signatures on May 10, and 34,398 signatures were accepted as being qualified, Jaeger said.

Kathleen Wrigley, who chaired the sponsoring committee, said supporters were excited but not surprised to hear the measure made the ballot. She said there are no plans to change their campaign strategy between now and November.

“We will continue to stay on that same track, talking to as many North Dakota voters as we can to get victims’ stories out there” and explain what the law will and won’t do, said Wrigley, wife of Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley.

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The measure would strengthen victims’ rights as listed in current state law and enshrine them in the state constitution, including the rights to be free from intimidation, to be heard in court proceedings and to be promptly notified when a defendant is released or escapes from custody.

Sponsors note that North Dakota is one of 18 states with no constitutional protections for crime victims’ rights. The North Dakota Sheriff’s & Deputies Association has endorsed the measure.

Both the North Dakota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the North Dakota State’s Attorneys’ Association oppose it, saying existing protections adopted by the Legislature in 1987 and updated periodically since then are working and can be improved by lawmakers if necessary.

Wrigley said she looks forward to discussions – not debates – about the measure.

“I think that there are well-intentioned people on both sides of this initiative,” she said.

The proposed law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California college student who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. A week later, her mother was confronted by the accused killer in a grocery store, not realizing he’d been released on bail.

Her brother, Henry Nicholas, the wealthy co-founder of Broadcom Corp., pushed for the original Marsy’s Law passed by California voters in 2008 and is financing efforts to spread the law to several other states, including more than $1 million to the North Dakota effort. Montana and South Dakota also will have Marsy’s Law on their November ballots. Illinois voters approved a version of the law in 2012.

In North Dakota, the measure will join two constitutional measures already placed on the Nov. 8 ballot through resolutions passed by the 2015 Legislature.

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One measure will ask whether to allow excess money in the state’s Foundation Aid Stabilization Fund, fed by oil taxes since it was created in 1994, to be used for education purposes other than offsetting cuts to education funding when there’s a revenue shortage.

The other measure would prohibit legislators from the serving in the Legislature unless they live in the district where voters elected them.

Petitions also are being circulated for three proposed ballot measures that would legalize marijuana, legalize medical marijuana only and raise the state’s tobacco tax. The deadline for submitting signatures is July 11.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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