BISMARCK — A citizen group seeking to roll back restrictions placed on North Dakota's state auditor failed to meet a Wednesday, July 31, deadline to submit signatures to election officials.
Riley Kuntz, a Dickinson electrician who led an unsuccessful effort to overturn legislative actions on two other fronts, said in a Wednesday afternoon text message they wouldn't meet the midnight deadline to advance their challenge against the auditor restrictions.
The group needed to gather 13,452 signatures but only received about 8,900. Kuntz said he had "plenty" of signature collectors but couldn't get them organized and to the right events.
In a last-minute move this year, state lawmakers required State Auditor Josh Gallion to receive their permission to conduct certain audits. Gallion, a Republican, has said he would ignore that requirement following an opinion from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem that found it was likely unconstitutional, prompting some pushback from lawmakers.
Kuntz said Stenehjem's opinion also diminished some of the urgency within his group to push forward with the campaign.
Despite the citizen group's unsuccessful efforts, a Republican lawmaker has said he would introduce legislation during the 2021 session to remove the limits on the auditor. While some legislators have defended the move as a means to ensure communication with the auditor, others have seen it as an effort to rein in an aggressive fact-finder.
Gallion said Wednesday he wasn't affiliated the referendum campaign and has instead been focused on working with the Legislature.
Kuntz's group also targeted a new open records law exemption that further shields lawmaker communications from public view as well as public funding for the proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library, but it fell short of signature requirements for both.