MINOT, ND — Secretary of State Al Jaeger yesterday blocked a ballot measure that would have put in place term limits for state lawmakers and the governor if passed.
Of the more than 46,000 signatures submitted by the ballot measurement committee, Jaeger said only 17,265 could be authenticated. The rest were invalid for reasons ranging from “probably forged” notarized signatures to paid-by-signature circulators.
Under state law, petition distributors can be paid by the hour, but they cannot be paid by signature.
Jaeger’s office called the State Bureau of Criminal Investigation to help resolve this situation, and it is clear that a criminal investigation has begun. I requested a copy of the report provided by BCI from Jaeger’s office before he decided to invalidate the signatures. My request was denied, a spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office citing
This section concerns the handling of records related to “criminal intelligence information and criminal investigation information”.
This means that a criminal investigation into this case is ongoing.
Meanwhile, the response to Jaeger’s decision from Jared Hendrix, chairman of the ballot measurement committee and campaign consultant for Rick Becker’s U.S. Senate campaign, was positively Trumpian.
He ripped Jaeger for exercising “unprecedented and unconstitutional discretion to reject the signatures of thousands of North Dakotans who support term limits.”
As a fun aside, Becker now seems to be distancing himself from Hendrix and this initiated measure. “Bismarck representative Rick Becker, who founded the Bastiat Caucus, said he joined the sponsorship committee to ensure name recognition, but was not involved in the petition process,”
He supported term limits for name recognition? What conviction.
Anyway, let’s examine these claims, starting with the idea that this was an “unprecedented” move by Jaeger.
It’s not. 2012 signature fraud perpetrated by a group of North Dakota State University gamers and detected by Jaeger’s office
In 2010, a measure to reform state pharmacy laws was also voted out of the statewide ballot by Jaeger’s office and ultimately
I could cite other examples, but you understand. The word “unprecedented” means something has no precedent, and there are plenty of precedents for the secretary of state’s office to invalidate signatures and keep a measure off the ballot.
As for unconstitutional?
, titled “Powers Reserved to the People”, is the relevant section, and it lays the groundwork for our initiated measurement process. “The petition shall be circulated only by the electors,” Article 3 states. “They shall swear upon it that the electors who have signed the petition have done so in their presence.”
This is the requirement set out in the constitution, which also indicates that the secretary of state must enforce it. “The Secretary of State will transmit each petition,” states Section 6 of Article III.
Not only is Jaeger’s review of petitions constitutional, it is a specific duty assigned to his office by the constitution.
Remember, Jaeger said 15,740 signatures were invalid because the signatures of several circulators were “probably forged” in front of a notary. Thus, all petitions notarized by this person have been invalidated.
If Hendrix and his campaign don’t believe the signatures were forged, they can have their day in court – ‘All decisions of the Secretary of State on any petition are subject to Supreme Court review’ does the state constitution have to say about it – but there is nothing “unconstitutional” or “unprecedented” about Jaeger doing his constitutional duty to enforce the demands of the constitution on the ballot measurement process.
The most interesting part of Hendrix’s statement is that none of it outside of the malarkey about it being “unconstitutional” and “unprecedented” addresses the substance of what Jaeger’s office found.
“Polls show that term limits for North Dakota lawmakers and the governor have overwhelming support among the public, with 82 percent in favor,” Hendrix said.
“We have filed over 46,000 signatures in support of this effort, clearly demonstrating overwhelming support across the state,” he adds.
As popular as the concept of term limits may be, it does not discount what the law, up to and including our state constitution, requires of those who would use the initiated measurement process.
No one is above the law.