Criminal Complaint To Be Filed Against Conservation Petitioners Outside North Dakota Polling Places

It’s an election day in North Dakota. Around the state voters are going to the polls to vote on nominations for statewide elected office, a statewide ballot measure and a host of local candidates and issues.

But outside some polls in the state petitioners working for the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks amendment (the conservation measure that would divert hundreds of millions in oil tax revenues into a fund) are collecting signatures. The coalition that has formed against the conservation amendment – North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation – are saying the petition collection is illegal.

They sent out the press release below decrying the signature collection efforts and stating that they will be pursuing a criminal complaint over the practice.

Section 16.1 of the North Dakota Century Code states that petitioners may not work within 100 feet of a polling place.

They also included in their press release the photo above of a conservation petitioner outside of the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. A member of NDCSC I spoke to told me they have reports of this sort of signature collection outside of polling places going on all over the state.

This is just the latest in a string of disappointing signature collection tactics from the conservation activists.

The group has been using paid signature collectors instead of volunteers despite a promise to avoid professional petitioners after tens of thousands of fraudulent signatures surfaced in support of a conservation measure last election cycle.

A sponsor of the measure – the North Dakota Wildlife Federation – also used a state auction to push for the petition, something state Game & Fish Department officials called “disappointing.”

And last week I broke a story about hunter safety instructors using classroom time to advocate for the measure and pressure students to sign petitions.

Here’s the full press release:

BISMARCK – Members of the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation (NDCSC) Coalition have called upon the sponsors of the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Amendment (CWWPA) to halt their illegal signature gathering efforts today at voting locations across North Dakota and announced their organization will be filing formal complaints with the appropriate law enforcement officials within the coming days.

Reports and evidence gathered from a variety of sources within and outside the NDCSC Coalition show that sponsors of the CWWPA have stationed signature gatherers within close proximity to entrances of voting locations in communities across the North Dakota in an attempt to collect petition signatures from voters entering and exiting voting locations who are voting in today’s statewide election. The CWWPA Facebook page even includes photos from today’s signature gathering efforts near several North Dakota voting locations and encourages people to participate in today’s signature gathering efforts through a Facebook event invite.

“This violates North Dakota’s election laws,” said Jon Godfread, chairman of the NDCSC Coalition. “And, more importantly, it violates the spirit of North Dakota’s free and open election process, which is supposed to be void of this kind of activity. Voters should have the right to go to the polls on Election Day and not feel like they are being hassled by signature gatherers or others who wish to influence their vote or take advantage of them on Election Day.”North Dakota law is very clear on this activity, according to Godfread. Within the chapter of North Dakota law referred to as “corrupt practices,” Section 16.1-10-06.2 of the North Dakota Century Code states, “A person may not approach a person attempting to enter a polling place, or who is in a polling place, for the purpose of selling, soliciting for sale, advertising for sale, or distributing any merchandise, product, literature, or service. A person may not approach a person attempting to enter a polling place, who is in a polling place, or who is leaving a polling place for the purpose of gathering signatures for any reason. These prohibitions apply in any polling place or within one hundred feet [30.48 meters] from any entrance leading into a polling place while it is open for voting.” (sentence is underlined for emphasis in this release, but not in the Century Code).

“It is clear from the reports we are hearing and from the photographs on Facebook that the signature gathering is taking place within that one-hundred foot zone,” said Godfread. “This is reminiscent of this group’s efforts two years ago when their petition was not certified to the state’s General Election ballot due to illegal and fraudulent signature gathering.” Godfread went on to say, “What’s interesting about today’s incident is that this group is asking you to trust them with spending billions of our tax dollars on conservation over the 25-year-lifespan of their constitutional amendment. Yet, once again, they cannot be trusted to follow simpleelection laws.”

In the coming days, NDCSC will be filing formal complaints with the appropriate lawenforcements officials across the state after compiling the numerous voting locations whereCWWPA signature gatherers were stationed illegally in close proximity to the entrance of votinglocations.

We also encourage voters across the state who observed similar activity while voting today tofile complaints with the appropriate law enforcement officials as well,” said Godfread.

For more information about the North Dakotans for Common Sense Conservation Coalition, visit www.NDCommonSenseConservation.com .

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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