An initiative that would have eased restrictions on who may operate a pharmacy in North Dakota -- a move that would allow large retailers into the pharmacy business -- failed to qualify for the ballot last week. While the petition gathered plenty of signatures, circulators failed to attach a copy of the initiative sponsors to the petition, a violation of North Dakota's petitioning laws according to Secretary of State Al Jaeger. He announced last week that because of the violation, the measure would not be on the November ballot.
Sponsors have challenged this move in court, saying state officials are empasizing "form over substance," and the requirement that sponsor names be circulated with the petition is not clearly stated. And the proponents' attorneys say that even if the inclusion of sponsor names with the petition is clearly required by law, the measure should go on the ballot anyway, "because its supporters mostly followed the initiative requirements set out by the constitution and North Dakota law."
Judge for yourself: the relevant section of North Dakota's constitution follows. Does it require that sponsors' names be included as part of the petition when it is circulated for signatures?
Article 3. Section 2. A petition to initiate or to refer a measure must be presented to the secretary
of state for approval as to form. A request for approval must be presented over the names and
signatures of twenty-five or more electors as sponsors, one of whom must be designated as
chairman of the sponsoring committee. The secretary of state shall approve the petition for
circulation if it is in proper form and contains the names and addresses of the sponsors and the
full text of the measure.
The state supreme court will hear arguments on September 1. Read more about the case in the Bismarck Tribune.