Measure 2 is the latest ballot initiative to face scrutiny.
“This is the big one as far as November ballot measures,” North Dakota Watchdog Network Managing Director Dustin Gawrylow said.
It would allow lawmakers to veto voter-approved constitutional measures and send them back to the public for another vote in the next general election. Currently, any constitutional measure that gets the necessary signatures and is passed by voters on election day will amend the constitution.
Gawrylow is leading the opposition to the measure for the group Protect ND.
“To essentially veto the will of the people after the people have voted yes on a constitutional measure, the legislature is saying it knows better than the voters themselves,” Gawrylow said.
Co-sponsor of the measure Senator Dick Dever (R, Bismarck) says the opposite.
“This is not the legislature taking power from the people, this is the legislature putting it before the voters for the voters to consider whether or not these protections should be in place for the constitution,” Dever said.
He added that slowing the amending process would be a welcome change from the way he believes decisions are made today.
“Just on the mood of the moment. When some crisis happens, we have to change it,” Dever said. “We need to prevent that kind of mentality.”
But Gawrylow says slowing down that process is costly.
“While the measure does also kick that no vote, if the legislature rejects the measure, back to the people 2 years later, we believe that this actually increases the amount of money that’s needed to pass these constitutional measures,” Gawrylow said.
As many have opposed voter-initiated measures because of out-of-state funding, Gawrylow says this measure would not solve that problem like the sponsoring lawmakers say it will.
“If we had more control over the campaign finance side of the issue and could regulate the out-of-state money itself rather than making the process for initiated measures more difficult, it would actually address the issue,” Gawrylow said.
Dever says addressing campaign finance reform is difficult because of first amendment concerns, and he would rather see a more deliberative process in play, even if it takes longer.
“I think it provides transparency, it provides that opportunity for better informed votes,” Dever said.
The other ballot measure, which has not received the same attention, relates to the membership and meeting requirements of the state board of higher education.