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Petition to Overhaul North Dakota’s Election System Back on the Table

BISMARCK — Ten days after it was withdrawn, a petition that would drastically alter how North Dakota conducts its elections has new life after the proposed ballot measure was resubmitted to Secretary of State Michael Howe’s office on Monday, Sept. 18.

The sponsoring committee chaired once again by Lydia Gessele, of Chasely, submitted a similar proposal on Aug. 29 before it was withdrawn. Gessele informed the office that she would not accept the title of the measure for the first petition as written by the secretary of state and attorney general.

By law, the title must be “a fair representation of the measure,” a release from Howe’s office stated.

The new petition released Monday follows a similar path, amending Article III of the North Dakota Constitution and adding a new “Election Integrity Act” to the constitution. The original petition proposed changes to Article II and Article IV.

“The intent of this Article is to ensure the people’s right to free and fair elections by ensuring election integrity by providing transparency for the verification of the election process and election results,” the petition reads.

As with the original proposal, voting machines would be prohibited in the state, with all voting conducted on Election Day using paper ballots. All tabulation would be done by hand “starting on the day of the election and continuing uninterrupted until hand counting is completed.”

Early voting would be prohibited, and absentee ballots would only be mailed to voters who request one for a specific election in writing “within a reasonable time period prior to Election Day,” according to the petition. Unsupervised public drop boxes would also be prohibited.

In addition, polling locations would be required within all county precincts with a paper poll book specific to that precinct.

The petition stipulates that all ballots cast in an election would be scanned electronically 24 hours after being counted by hand. The electronic versions of the ballots would then be preserved and made available for no less than six years.

Changes would also come to how petitions could be created and circulated. Under the petition, only North Dakota residents could submit a petition, but those circulating petitions would not have to be from North Dakota.

There would also be no law limiting how circulators be paid, similar to the August petition, which said circulators could be paid per signature.

Changes to the petition could also be made within 180 days after the first filing of the measure, as opposed to the current 90 days.

While the original petition banned the state Legislature from placing a measure to amend the state constitution on a statewide ballot, Monday’s initiative would require a two-thirds supermajority within each house to propose any constitutional amendments.

Voters would also have the ability to recall elected officials with 10% rather than 25% of the vote.

Penalties for violating the new requirements would be guilty of Class A misdemeanor.

Various components of the original petition have been removed, including a political party’s ability to place a candidate on the ballot for $150. A provision that called for a special election within 60 days following evidence of tampering was also nixed.

Proponents of the petition believe banning machines would empower voters by allowing them to verify an election’s results and halt potential fraud through a paper-only method.

Some opponents say the petition overlooks many North Dakotans who rely on voting machines to cast their ballots independently, while officials have said many of the petitioners’ fears are unfounded.

Howe’s office must draft an official title for the new petition no earlier than Sept. 25 and no later than Sept. 27. To be placed on the ballot, the committee would need to gather 31,164 signatures.

Source : INFORUM