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Case of failed North Dakota term limits petition heads to prosecutor, state attorney general says

The Ward County State's Attorney Office will decide whether to pursue charges against North Dakota for Term Limits, the group behind the petition, after claims it paid signature gatherers bonuses.

PHOTO: Jared Hendrix
Bastiat Caucus organizer Jared Hendrix speaks during a rally at the North Dakota Capitol on April 5, 2021. (Jeremy Turley / Forum News Service)
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BISMARCK — The case of a failed North Dakota measure petition that sought term limits for legislators and the governor is expected to land on a prosecutor’s desk next week amid allegations a group trying to get the measure on the ballot offered bonuses for signatures.

The North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation has completed its criminal probe into North Dakota for Term Limits, state Attorney General Drew Wrigley said. He said he plans to send the case to the Ward County State’s Attorney Office in Minot, North Dakota, next week.

The group turned in roughly 46,000 signatures in its effort to place on the November ballot a proposed measure that would have set an eight-year service cap for the governor and state legislators. Lawmakers would have been allowed to serve up to eight years each in the House and Senate.

To appear on a statewide ballot, proposed measures need 31,164 valid signatures. Secretary of State Al Jaeger ruled more than 29,000 signatures didn’t meet legal standards.

Falling short of the signature threshold, the measure was not allowed on the November ballot.

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Nearly 15,000 signatures were invalidated due to notary issues, and roughly 10,000 had inadequate signatures, such as duplicate signatures, partial names and signatures that were signed before the petition was approved for circulation.

A survey claimed 87 signature gatherers were offered or paid bonuses based on the number of signatures they obtained, which would be a Class A misdemeanor under North Dakota law.

Measure Chairman Jared Hendrix pushed back on the allegations, claiming Jaeger’s approach to preventing the proposed measure from appearing on the ballot was “sloppy.”

Hendrix declined to comment for this story.

When asked what charges would be recommended, Wrigley said that would be up to the state’s attorney office.

April Baumgarten joined The Forum in February 2019 as an investigative reporter. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, N.D., where her family raises Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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