As you’re likely aware, there are four initiated measures on North Dakota’s general election ballot for 2018. Each one is deserving of the electorate’s consideration. If you’re a regular reader of The Minuteman, then you probably know where we stand on each one already. But just in case, here we go with our official position on which box we believe you should check when you sit down with ballot in hand.
Initiated Constitutional Measure 1: Pertaining to the Transparency of Funding Sources, Lobbyists, Conflicts of Interests, and the Establishment of an Ethics Commission
The language you’ll see on your ballot for this measure is as follows:
“This initiated measure would add a new article to the North Dakota Constitution establishing a North Dakota ethics commission. The commission, using funds provided by the legislature, would be responsible for adopting rules related to corruption, elections, and lobbying and for reporting and investigating alleged violations of those rules and related state laws. The measure would provide for prohibitions for lobbyists related to gift giving and delivery of campaign contributions and prohibitions for public officials against lobbying, use of campaign contributions, and conflicts of interest in certain proceedings. The measure would direct the legislative assembly to enact laws that require electronically accessible public disclosure of the source of funds spent (in any medium and in an amount greater than two hundred dollars) to influence statewide and legislative elections and statewide ballot measures or to lobby or otherwise influence state government action. In a conflict between this article and any other provision in the North Dakota Constitution, the provisions of this article would control.”
Doesn’t sound too shabby, does it? I mean, after all, who wouldn’t be in favor of transparency, accountability, and an ethical political process? Well, as they say, “The devil’s in the details.”
This is, in my opinion, the worst measure on the entire ballot. I wrote about this back in August after the Institute for Free Speech gave a scathing review about the First Amendment concerns regarding Measure 1. As I mentioned in that article, imagine a political environment in which the North Dakota Legislature is obligated to enact laws that demand:
“… disclosure of the ultimate and true source of funds spent in any medium, in an amount greater than two hundred dollars, adjusted for inflation, to influence any statewide election, election for the legislative assembly, statewide ballot-issue election, or to lobby or otherwise influence state government action.” (Emphasis Added)
This is the exact wording found within the measure itself. And with “any medium” as the qualifier, the list of things that could trigger such a “disclosure” is seemingly endless: voter guides, get-out-the-vote drives, websites, radio talk shows, and even blogs like this one. The list goes on.
There’s also the “ultimate and true source of funds” verbiage. Is it any wonder organizations like The North Dakota Catholic Conference oppose the measure?
The five-member ethics commission proposed in Measure 1 would involve a huge grant of rule-making authority. It’s essentially limitless. The legislature’s roll here? Provide “adequate funds”. That’s it. Go figure.
I could go on, but for these reasons — and others — we’re really not interested in an unchecked and potentially intrusive commission. The Minuteman is an emphatic NO on Measure 1.
Initiated Constitutional Measure 2: Pertaining to the Elections in Which a Qualified Elector May Vote
The language you’ll see on your ballot for this measure is:
“This initiated measure would amend Article II of the North Dakota Constitution to state that ‘only a citizen’ of the United States is a qualified elector, instead of the current provision that states ‘every citizen’ of the United States is a qualified elector. The measure also would state that only a qualified elector may vote in any general, special, or primary election for a federal, statewide, state legislative, district, county, township, city, or school district office or ballot measure.”
This is a good summary of the measure. It’s simple and to the point. The argument in favor of it is that the current language in the state constitution is ambiguous. I think it’s a fair argument and the sponsoring committee deserves credit for the preemptive move— especially in an era where some are pushing for noncitizen voting.
Yet, Measure 2 still has its opponents. But their arguments are really quite silly. I wrote last month about The Forum’s ridiculous position here. Some say the measure is unnecessary, because its already covered in statute. If that’s the case, then what’s there to lose by voting for it? Furthermore, I think adding the section that defines the various elections in which “only a qualified elector may vote” is wise.
We’re a YES vote on Measure 2.
Initiated Statutory Measure 3: Pertaining to the Legalization of Marijuana
The language you’ll see on your ballot in regards to this measure is:
“This initiated measure would amend the North Dakota Century Code by removing hashish, marijuana, and tetrahydrocannabinols from the list of schedule I controlled substances in section 19-03.1-05. It would create chapter 66-01, which would define the terms marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia and prohibit prosecution of any person over the age of 21 for any non-violent marijuana related activity (including growing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, or testing marijuana) or drug paraphernalia relating to any nonviolent marijuana activity, except for the sale of marijuana to a person under the age of 21. Any language in the North Dakota Century Code that conflicts with chapter 66-01, including the prohibitions on prosecution, is nullified and repealed. The measure also would add penalties for individuals under the age of twenty-one in possession of, or attempting to distribute, marijuana; and provide penalties for individuals who distribute marijuana to anyone under the age of twenty-one. It would amend the definition of drug paraphernalia in section 19-03.4-01 to apply only to non-marijuana controlled substances. It would amend section 25-03.1-45 to require the automatic expungement of the record of an individual who has a drug conviction for a controlled substance that has been legalized; create an appeals process for an individual who believes the state did not expunge a record properly; and eliminate the state’s sovereign immunity for damages resulting from expungement lawsuits.”
Yeah, that’s painfully wordy. But such is life with something that would represent such a major shift in North Dakota. Without question, this measure has been, is, and will be the talk of North Dakota’s 2018 election cycle. I think those opposed to the idea of legalizing recreational marijuana underestimated the group pushing the measure. But things got real after Legalize ND turned in the necessary signatures and the measure was approved by the Secretary of State’s office.
The most notable opposition to Measure 3 — North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana — was organized with less than 60 days to the election. They’re led by 76-year old former North Dakota Attorney General (1981-1984) and District Court Judge Bob Wefald. No offense, but Mr. Wefald has really been an embarrassment to the organization. His interviews amount to an anti-marijuana version of Grumpy Old Men— as evidenced by this interview with Point of View’s Chris Berg. But I digress.
It wasn’t a surprise at all when Wefald and others took to running a campaign of fear against Measure 3. They’re still working at convincing people that passage of the measure would legalize driving while high. It’s a ridiculous claim and one that I debunked here. In fact, I wouldn’t bother trying to hash over all their arguments. There’s simply not time.
I will say this… if you’re tired of taxpayer dollars being wasted on the arrest, prosecution, and incarceration of non-violent marijuana users, then Measure 3 is for you. If you think that the State’s handling of Medical Marijuana has been unacceptable, then Measure 3 is for you. If you think those who need Medical Marijuana shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to obtain it — and even pay for the privilege — then Measure 3 is for you. Or if you simply think people should have the right to live their lives as they see fit, so long as they don’t harm others, then Measure 3 is for you.
Heck, even if you have concerns because you give credence to some of the Chicken Little arguments that are out there, just remember the legislative session is coming up and legislators can and will make clarifications, if necessary. People aren’t going to be growing it everywhere, selling it everywhere, smoking it everywhere, and no… they won’t be driving under its influence everywhere either. Oh, and it’ll be taxed in the stores that sell it too.
The Minuteman is — without fear — a YES on Measure 3. It’s time.
Initiated Statutory Measure 4: Pertaining to the Establish Personalized Vehicle Plates for Volunteer Emergency Responders
The language you’ll see on your ballot for this one:
“This initiated measure would add a new section to chapter 39-04 of the North Dakota Century Code requiring the Department of Transportation to issue red personalized vehicle plates to volunteer emergency responders. The plates would be provided at no cost to the volunteers and would serve as an entrance pass to all North Dakota state parks. Qualifications and verification procedures for the plates would be designated by the Department of Transportation in cooperation with the volunteer organizations.”
This is the least talked about measure. At least from what I’ve observed. And I mean no disrespect to its sponsors or those who support it when I say it’s a feel-good measure. Those who support it do so because they want to show their appreciation for volunteer emergency responders. I think showing appreciation is a good thing. I just don’t think doing it with other people’s money (i.e. tax dollars) is the right way to go about it.
Furthermore, as I explained last month, the Department of Transportation is already facing revenue shortfalls— which has led to a discussion about increasing fees. Aside from this not being the proper role of government, it just doesn’t make sense.
If there’s an appetite for providing funding to these volunteers, then let’s do it through non-profits. We need not do it through force via the initiative process.
While we love our emergency responders too, The Minuteman is a NO on Measure 4.
Election night should be an interesting one for North Dakotans. Make sure you get out and vote.