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North Dakota Ballot Measures 2020

News | October 21st, 2020

By Jill Finkelson

jsfinkelson99@gmail.com

A state constitution is a living document. This is especially true in North Dakota where the timeline from petition to measure to an amendment is relatively simple and quick. With some signatures, pretty much anyone can put forth an amendment to the state constitution and have it decided by popular vote. A simple majority gets it in the constitution. There are two measures that will be on your ballot on November Third.

Measure 1 is an amendment to Article VIII of the constitution, Education. Per the North Dakota University System’s website, “The SBHE is made up of seven citizen members appointed to four-year terms by the governor and one student appointed by the governor to serve a one-year term.” Measure 1 would increase the size of the board from eight to fifteen. Further, it would increase the term from four to six years. State employees, officials, and legislators would be prohibited from serving on the board. It would restructure the board.

There is a lot of support for the measure in the legislature. The argument being that with an expanding student base at North Dakota universities and colleges, the board needs more support to achieve its goals.

Measure 2 is an amendment to Article III, Powers Reserved to the People. As it stands, any measure ratified by popular vote goes into effect shortly thereafter. The new amendment would add a step. After a measure gains the majority vote, it would then go into vote through the state legislature. If approved, it would go into effect then. If it is not approved by the legislature, it would once again be put on the ballot for the people to vote on. If it passed again, it would be enacted.

The amendment, while keeping the power of the people in the process, creates a longer, more involved process for ratifying the state constitution. A large concern of supporters of the amendment arose after some amendments were introduced into North Dakota ostensibly by groups outside of the state. Considering the low bar for entry, groups can, with a little money and marketing, can get something on the ballot despite not being affiliated with the state. Concerns were raised earlier this year when measure 3 was supposed to be on the ballot. The measure dealt with voting. Many voters found it obscure and difficult to understand. This would be remedied by making the process longer and more involved and giving space for supporters and opposition to a forum for the public and make their case. On the other hand, the measure could be seen as taking away from the will of the people in the way they currently vote directly on their own state constitution. It is, after all, a very living document.

If you are voting in North Dakota this year, there is an opportunity to engage directly with your state constitution. Vote.nd.gov has resources on the measures put forth. I know it is difficult to find good information without spin. For this piece, I also read up on the amendments on ballotpedia. They are a good place to start some research on what you think is best for your state.

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