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Grassroots Group Asks ND Voters to Consider Election Changes

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North Dakota is among the latest states to see a strong push to change how political maps are drawn by proposing it be in the hands of an independent commission. (Adobe Stock)
North Dakota is among the latest states to see a strong push to change how political maps are drawn by proposing it be in the hands of an independent commission. (Adobe Stock)
August 18, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- This fall, North Dakota voters will consider a measure that proposes a variety of changes some say will improve elections across the state. Last week, North Dakota's secretary of state said supporters of Measure 3 gathered enough signatures to put it on the November ballot.

The question has several provisions, including bolstering election security by requiring a paper record of each vote cast. It would establish open primaries, while shifting the responsibility of redistricting away from lawmakers to the state's ethics commission.

Mary Tintes is with the League of Women Voters and a volunteer with North Dakota Voters First, the group behind the effort. She said taking politics out of redistricting is very important to her.

"You know, if it's a Republican or a Democrat, the party in power creates their own district maps. In other words, they pick their own voters," Tintes said.

On Thursday, the state Supreme Court will hear arguments in a lawsuit filed against the state over the ballot question. The plaintiffs claim organizers misled petition signers by not providing the proposal's full text.

North Dakota Voters First denies that claim, saying each canvasser had all the information included in the packets they presented.

Another provision in the measure aims to boost voter access for active service members who are stationed overseas by extending the period in which they receive and return their ballots. That extension would increase by 15 days.

Tintes said it's a common-sense approach to ensuring all those serving can make their voices heard at the ballot box.

"We're simply helping our military personnel to receive and return their ballots in a timely and fair way," she said.

Measure 3 also calls for a switch to instant runoff elections, where voters can choose from multiple candidates in a process designed to establish a winner who has majority support.

As for enhancing election security, the secretary of state says North Dakota already has an auditing system. But Tintes said the extra layer would provide more assurances at a time when there are threats of foreign interference.

Disclosure: North Dakota Voters First contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Civil Rights. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND