MINOT, N.D. — Measure 2 is a constitutional amendment placed on the November ballot by the state Legislature.
It's an essential piece of reform that you should support.
If passed, the process for ballot measures seeking to amend the constitution would go like this:
- Measure proponents would collect signatures and place their issues on the ballot like normal. Amendments would only be on the general election ballots in November.
- If an amendment passes on the ballot, it would be voted on during the next legislative session. If it passes there, too, it is enacted.
- If the Legislature doesn't approve the amendment, it is automatically placed on the next general election ballot. If voters approve it again, it is enacted.
At no point in this process could the Legislature make amendments to the proposed measure. They would only get an up or down vote.
None of this would apply to statutory measures — only amendments to the North Dakota state constitution.
This is good reform, though the fetishists for direct democracy are already marshaling their forces against it.
Dustin Gawrylow, who styles himself as the "managing director" of the North Dakota Watchdog Network (an organization which, but for some organizing paperwork, seems to exist mainly in his mind), held a news conference this week announcing the creation of a group opposing Measure 2 called ProtectND.
He's even adopted a Trumpy slogan for the effort: "Keep North Dakota Great."
You probably didn't hear about the news conference, but that doesn't mean Gawrylow hasn't correctly identified, in the statewide electorate, a deep suspicion of legislative efforts to reform the initiated measure process. One that has persisted even as, in recent election cycles, activist billionaires and other deep-pocket interests have poured millions of out-of-state money into ballot measures.
Proponents of the initiated measure process like to cling to romantic ideas about citizens banding together in grassroots campaigns in pursuit of their policy ideas, but that hasn't been the norm in some time.
What's typical of an initiated measure campaign today is an interest group writing a check to professional signature collectors, essentially buying their way onto the ballot.
Those citizen-led campaigns? They aren't the norm anymore.
Is that what we want?
I'm voting for Measure 2.
Every political process, regardless of who initiates it, needs checks and balances. Lengthening the timeline for debate over something as consequential as a constitutional amendment is, again, good reform.
However things turn out for Measure 2, let's not let that be the end of the debate over reforming the process. We need changes, including an increase in the number of signatures required to make the ballot, and a ban on paying people to collect them.
Opponents of these reforms will suggest it's all an effort to keep the people out of the legislative process. If we listen to them, our laws will remain vulnerable to activist billionaires.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.