BISMARCK — North Dakota voters soundly rejected a ballot measure that would have given the state Legislature a say in the process of amending the state constitution.
In complete but unofficial results, 62% of voters rejected Measure 2, while 38% voted to adopt it. All election results in North Dakota must be certified by the state Canvassing Board before becoming official, but with such a wide margin dismissing Measure 2, both promoters and opponents say the result is decided.
State lawmakers opted during last year's legislative session to put the measure on the November ballot, with only Democrats and some moderate Republicans voting against the resolution.
Currently, petitioners can gather about 27,000 signatures from North Dakota residents, place a constitutional measure on the ballot, and if it passes, a change to the constitution must be made. Under Measure 2, the Legislature would have gotten the authority to reject a voter-approved constitutional measure and send the measure back to a public vote for final approval.
Measure 2 proponent Scott Louser, a Republican state representative from Minot, N.D., conceded that his side had lost. Louser said it's "always an uphill battle" to win over voters when the Legislature puts a measure on the ballot. He added that he understands changing the constitution is an important decision, and voters should default to a "no" vote. Louser said he didn't expect the measure to come back before voters in the same form.
Political commentator Dustin Gawrylow, who led an ideologically diverse group that opposed the measure, said the election night result is a clear sign to lawmakers that they should not try to make North Dakotans "vote away their own rights."
The proposed constitutional amendment appeared on the ballot after North Dakota voters approved citizen-initiated measures in recent years that cemented protections for crime victims and pushed through ethics reform. Those measures were not broadly popular among Republican lawmakers, who lamented the amount of out-of-state money behind petitioners’ efforts.
Both Louser and Gawrylow agreed that limiting the influence of outside interests could be a potential next step in reforming the state's ballot measure process.
Gawrylow said he will mount an effort during the upcoming legislative session to legalize the gathering of electronic signatures for proposed ballot initiatives. He said allowing supporters of an initiative to sign electronically would cut down on the out-of-state money that usually flows into North Dakota to hire petitioners.
Louser said tackling campaign finance surrounding ballot initiatives will likely be a topic of discussion at the legislative session, though he did not offer specifics.