The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled term limits should be on the ballot. As Chair of the term limits Committee, I want the facts to be known.
Unproven allegations of fraud were rejected by an unanimous 5-0 majority of the North Dakota Supreme Court. The highest court in our state – consisting of North Dakota’s top legal minds – concluded that our ballot drive for term limits on the legislature and governor was conducted legally and voters will get to decide Measure 1 for term limits November 8th.
The Court recognized that the requisite minimum 31,164 North Dakotans had signed our petition to get this on the ballot. The justices found that Secretary of State Al Jaeger had disqualified thousands of valid pro-term limits signatures because he (without investigation) decided a notary lied. The Secretary of State didn’t attempt to verify that petition signers were North Dakota residents, instead he rejected signatures from qualified voters because of his arbitrary decision. We provided documentation and affidavits that verified there was no fraud, and Jaeger testified that he didn’t consider the proof we presented.
Jaeger took it upon himself to reject the signatures without contacting the voters simply because the sheets containing their otherwise valid signatures were notarized by the same notary. The Court pointed out that Jaeger admitted he had never done this before. Nor could he produce evidence that this has ever been the practice in North Dakota, or any other state, to deal with notary disputes. Disqualifying all work of a notary without questioning that notary or investigating if the signers were eligible voters, was an unprecedented overreach, and was basically Jaeger declaring that he didn’t like our signatures. The Court cited many cases, explaining why Jaeger was not authorized to take such a brazen action.
One columnist recently suggested cutting courts out of the process in the future and allowing the Secretary of State to block any ballot petition for any reason. This would deny due process and the rule of law, allowing one person free rein to deny any initiative from the people. The fact is over 46,000 North Dakotans signed a petition to place term limits on the November ballot and the Court said the Secretary of State cannot deny them the right to decide this issue.
The political class hates term limits. In the last legislative session, our State Legislature killed a bill which would have helped create term limits for Congress. Legislators in both DC and Bismarck maintain cozy and financially-dependent relationships with lobbyists. They never want the gravy train to stop. Today, 36 other states term limit their governor while 15 term limit their legislators. Countless local offices around the country have term limits. The President of the United States has an 8-year term limit. If term limits are good enough for the leader of the free world, why should North Dakota politicians get to stay for life?
Thanks to the Court, North Dakota voters will have the opportunity to decide on eight-year term limits. A new poll shows 81 percent of North Dakota voters favor term limits. It’s a long overdue reform, as the most powerful politicians in Bismarck have clung to office for decades.
When this amendment passes on November 8th, it will begin a new era of government for the people of North Dakota. More open seats will allow new ideas and perspectives to emerge. Having fewer career politicians will mean more accountability to voters and less special interest power. We are proud of the work we’ve done to give every North Dakota citizen a vote on 8-year term limits.
Jared Hendrix, Chair of North Dakota for Term Limits.