Last week’s column brought reaction from two Republicans central to the state Supreme Court case involving Measure 3, which would have amended the state constitution to change North Dakota elections.
First from Pat Finken:
“The ruling and 1924 precedent covered any statute embedded (not affected) in a constitutional measure (not just any initiated measure) must be available to signer. It is an important distinction and at the heart of the decision.
“There is no other example in constitutional law where a statute was embedded, nor has any recent constitutional measure attempted to embed statute in our constitution. The column mirrors Tim Purdon’s argument where he unsuccessfully attempted to blur the lines between statutory measures and constitutional measures. The challenge, petition requirements and case law dealt exclusively with constitutional initiated measure requirements only and is another important distinction.
"The court also took exception to embedding a statute in constitutional law. ‘Constitutions are supposed to be models of clear and concise statement, solemnly accepted by the people as guides to and restrains, not only upon legislatures, but the people themselves. To require the people, the legislature and the courts, when constitutional questions arise, to go outside the instrument, to delve into statutes, some of which may have been modified or repealed by subsequent inconsistent legislation and to search through several volumes of laws, is utterly foreign to American constitutional theory and practice.’
“Finally, the Brighter Future alliance was the organization that led the opposition campaign and court challenge, not Odney Advertising. Odney’s role was as one of the campaign consultants BFA hired but the driver and funder of the opposition and court challenge was BFA. I understand the confusion, but I sold my interest in Odney a couple of years ago and now spend my time partially retired (golfing, grand kids, etc.) and partially free labor for my Brighter Future Alliance nonprofit.”
Also, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, the official responsible for reviewing initiated measures, offered a review of the process of reviewing petition signatures and the impact of the first clause in the proposed amendment, which dealt with voting by voters in the military.
“On a random basis, we select the names of 4,000 petition signers. To date we have received back 1,074 cards from signers and 30 that were undeliverable. … In my review of the petitions I did not see anything that would have been an indication of a mass forgery effort.
“However, out of the cards that were returned, 38 of them included comments that they were not told about the rest of what was in the petition or they crossed out everything at the top except the military voting part.
“We also received a lot of calls about what the circulators were telling people … Every story that we received was that the circulator only mentioned the military voting part. My guess is that all of 35,000 signers were told only about the military part. When asked what else was in the petition most circulators could not explain it. …
“Here are the facts. Federal law requires the ballot be provided to the military 45 days before the election. North Dakota law says we must do it 46 days before an election. In the June election, there were military and overseas voters located in 37 countries that were able to vote without any problem. North Dakota has one of the best systems in the entire country for military and overseas voters and we have been doing it for many years. That part of the petition was to get people to sign so they could get the rest of it on the ballot.
“In this case, the Voters First group wanted the ballots given to the military on the 61st day. Under current law, the filing deadline for candidates is 64 days prior to the election. … It is impossible to prepare a ballot in three days. Therefore, the legislature would have to back up the candidate filing deadline at least 18 days to allow enough time for ballot preparation based on the current timeline in the law. That would have resulted in North Dakota having the first or second earliest filing deadline for candidates in the entire country. …
“The early deadline would have impacted every election, state, district, city, school, etc. I think that would make it very hard to encourage candidates to run on the local level when the filing deadline would be almost three months before the election. That does not seem to me to be in the best interest of the voters.
“Finally, the Supreme Court made their decision on a point of law. They did not make it based on any political pressure. To suggest anything else is an insult to the court.”
Mike Jacobs is a former editor and publisher of the Grand Forks Herald.