Burgum Claims “There is Confusion” from Voters. Senate Continues Critiquing Constitutional Measure Requirements

Elected leaders in Bismarck claim “confusion” from voters make changes necessary when it comes to ballot measures. Because of that “confusion” our State Constitution has become “vulnerable” according to State Senators. Therefore, they continue to approve changes to the constitutional measure process to “make sure that voters are educated” when they get to the ballot box. It certainly appears North Dakota’s elected officials have little faith in the general public they serve.

On February 18th, by a vote of 31-16 the Senate pushed through SCR 4001 overturning a unanimous “DO NOT PASS” recommendation. The measure gives lawmakers a say in constitutional measures and creates additional barriers. You can read my post on that and view who voted to deal themselves a hand here.

The very next morning, during an interview on KFGO Governor Doug Burgum claimed, “there is confusion” among voters when it relates to ballot measures. His comments come after months of praising voters for their knowledge and wisdom for voting for Measure 1 in 2010. That measure – a constitutional measure – created the Legacy Fund the Governor and lawmakers are now looking to use. 63% of voters approved the fund.

About the same time Burgum made his remarks on KFGO, the Senate was back at it making changes to requirements for constitutional measures. SB 2256 was a close 4-3 “DO NOT PASS” recommendation out of committee. It passed 33-14 on the Senate floor marking the second time in less than 24-hours the Senate overturned a “DO NOT PASS” recommendation from the committee that dove into the details of the bill. This change would require full amendment language be available to voters and other ballot language requirements. The thing is, voters already have that opportunity at polling places. Proponents admitted as such on the Senate floor.

Senator Jessica Unruh, the prime sponsor of SB 2256, claimed the changes are a way to “make sure voters are educated” on the constitutional measure vote. Voters already have the opportunity and resources through the Secretary of State, County Auditors, independent groups like the League of Women Voters, and the campaigns themselves to learn details about what measures do and don’t do. Then why demand this change?

If legislators find the ballot change as being necessary to “make sure voters are educated” then why not add more information on the ballot about candidates? Perhaps we should mandate party platforms are included on ballots. Maybe the candidate’s profession and what their job is? While we’re at it, let’s add the level of education and where they went to school. Add that to “make sure voters are educated” on who it is they are voting for. The thing is, just like information on a measure, this information is normally available for voters. The bill isn’t necessary unless there is an unspoken motive.

Elected officials seem selective in their frustrations with voters. Voters should be as outraged about how these elected officials appear to look down upon them. Claiming they’re confused and not educated on the issues is a little insulting. There have been measures, both constitutional and initiated, that have passed which we all have personally disagreed with at some point. Regardless, the voters have spoken. Why is there so much confusion from elected officials about this?

Tyler Axness
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