Bill could make ballots pages-long

Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 12:33 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The last election cycle saw debate over how people should be allowed to vote, including how many polling places should be open.

But today, lawmakers debated how the ballot should look.

When voters go to the polls, they often see ballot measures to choose from. On that ballot, is a summary of the measure so voters know what it is they’re voting on.

Some measures can be pages in length and written in complicated text when submitted to the Secretary of State.

Currently, the text of a ballot measure can be summarized and simplified on the ballot for voters.

But there’s a bill circulating which would require the full text of the measure be printed.

Some lawmakers say advocacy groups are writing lengthy and multi-issue measures on-purpose, knowing they’ll be simplified on the ballot.

“You may have noticed that the initiated measures have gotten longer and more complex. You may have also noticed that initiated measures begin with that statements that are intended to persuade the voters to vote for the measure,” said Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck.

Klemin then referenced a recent measure withdrawn from the ballot, which included voting access for military members, but also put the Ethics Commission in-charge of redrawing state district lines, and other initiatives.

The Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said the Secretary’s Office, questioned the proposed solution.

“Is this what it would take to educate the voters? We can’t say that for sure. We don’t know if this would work or not,” said Silrum.

Some measures are two to four pages long. The bill would require all those pages to be printed on the ballot.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, each ballot card costs 30 cents. Voters and the counties will have additional costs if they vote absentee.

The summaries are written by the Secretary of State’s office with the help of the Attorney General to come to what they consider a fair representation of the text.

Some lawmakers said if this passes, they hope it will help make the measures more concise in text and scope.

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