Nearly 25,000 signatures submitted to place two initiatives on North Dakota’s November ballot were fraudulent, according to a state investigation, raising questions about the widespread practice of contracting out signature-gathering for ballot petitions. Both groups behind the petitions—one would have created a state conservation fund; the other would have legalized medical marijuana—hired outside help to collect signatures for the petitions. But an investigation by the state bureau of investigation found that more than 17,000 of the 37,785 signatures for the conservation fund initiative and more than 7,000 of the 20,092 signatures for the medical marijuana initiatives were falsified. Because of the invalidated signatures, neither petition earned enough support to appear on the November ballot. Jaeger’s office has charged 10 individuals for facilitating voter fraud or filing a false statement, Class A misdemeanors that could result in a yearlong prison sentence or up to $2,000 in fines. As in most other states, those filing petition signatures in North Dakota are required to sign an affidavit swearing that they witnessed the signatures and that they are genuine.
“Petition fraud is an affront to the election process and to all citizens, and particularly to those who legitimately signed the petitions hoping to have these measures placed on the ballot,” said North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem in a statement announcing the investigation’s findings. “That’s why it’s essential that these allegations are investigated and violations prosecuted.”
The conversation group hired Terra Strategies, a Des Moines, Iowa, firm that specializes in grassroots campaigns. The medical marijuana group contracted with specific individuals, Dave Schwartz, its executive director, tells Governing. State investigators noted that “several individuals” were charged in connection with both petitions. Eight of those charged were members of the North Dakota State University football team, according to the Bismarck Tribune. Requests for comments from Terra Strategies and attorneys for individuals charged in the investigation were not immediately returned.
Full Article: North Dakota Investigation Implicates Petition Fraud.