NDVF Challenges In-Person Signature Requirement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

North Dakota Voters First
701-491-8295 info@northdakotavotersfirst.org

May 6, 2020

NORTH DAKOTA VOTERS FIRST CHALLENGES IN-PERSON SIGNATURE COLLECTION REQUIREMENT DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC 

● The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Fargo seeks an order to temporarily suspend the enforcement of North Dakota’s ban on electronic signatures on petitions, and the requirement of in-person petition circulators and notarizing petition circulator forms 

● The initiative’s legislative redistricting component is dependent on the U.S. Census, which only happens every 10 years 

● NDVF must submit 26,904 qualified signatures before the deadline of July 6, 2020 

FARGO, ND: North Dakota Voters First (NDVF), a grassroots coalition of North Dakotans working to modernize state elections, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fargo challenging the state’s in-person signature requirements to place a ballot initiative before voters in the November general election. The initiative would make it easier for overseas military personnel to vote, create a paper record of every vote, increase voter choice through open primaries and instant runoff elections, and transfer the responsibility to draw political district lines to the citizen-led North Dakota Ethics Commission. 

“The opportunity to create fair legislative districts only happens every 10 years, as it is directly tied to the U.S. Census. This initiative will put power back into the hands of North Dakota voters. We are not just working to modernize our elections – but to give the people of North Dakota better choices, greater transparency, and a more open process,” said Carol Sawicki, Chair of North Dakota Voters First. 

NDVF became eligible to begin gathering signatures for the petition on April 30. However, COVID-19 creates an environment that is impossible to comply with both North Dakota’s in-person signature collection laws and North Dakota’s public health guidance of social distancing. First, the state requires signatures to be gathered in-person by petition circulators. Second, the petition circulator must swear in the presence of a notary public to certify the petitions. Lastly, valid electronic signatures are not allowed to be collected. The suit seeks an order from the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota to suspend these requirements and to temporarily allow for electronic signature collection during the pandemic. 

“North Dakota’s laws for petition signature gathering do not account for the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic we find ourselves in,” said Robins Kaplan Partner Tim Purdon, local counsel for North Dakota Voters First. “Given the timing of the Census, North Dakota will not have the opportunity to address fair legislative redistricting for another 10 years and to require North Dakota citizens who wish to circulate or sign this petition to comply with existing statues in the time of COVID-19 violates fundamental rights under the United States Constitution.” 

North Dakota Voters First seeks to put before voters an amendment to transfer responsibility to draw political district lines to the citizen-led North Dakota Ethics Commission and to modernize North Dakota’s elections. 

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North Dakota Voters First is a cross-partisan grassroots coalition working to make our elections better serve all North Dakotans. Carol Sawicki, Fargo, ND, is Committee Chair.