TOM STROMME/Tribune Secretary of State Al Jaeger gestures while testifying on a bill to designate the capitol's Memorial Hall into state statute with that official name. Jaeger was testifying in front of the the House political subdivisions committee on Wednesday morning.

This guest post was submitted by Dustin Gawrylow from the North Dakota Watchdog Network

Today’s headline is that two of the three referral petitions may not make the deadline set by the Secretary of State under the law.

But the real news story is that one of these referrals was given two separate deadlines – by the Secretary of State – two days apart – July 23rd and July 25th.

According to the paperwork issued by the Secretary of State on June 5th, the deadline for the referral to block the legislature’s attempt to exempt certain email communications between themselves and government employees could either be today or it could be Thursday.

Apparently, on the press release issued by the Secretary of State, July 25th was listed as the deadline – the letter sent to the chairman of the sponsoring committee listed July 23rd as the deadline. Both documents have the official seal of the Secretary of State. Both are official documents of the office.

I am not privy to the official numbers collected so far on this petition – but the sponsors of this petition have been helping man our North Dakota Watchdog Network booth and collecting for this petition.

According to Jaeger’s statement in the news article:

Jaeger’s June 5 news release and timeline for referral regarding the petition both gave the wrong deadline of July 25 for submitting the referendum petition on shielding lawmakers’ emails. Kuntz was sent the timeline, Jaeger said.

But the secretary of state’s official letter to Kuntz had the correct deadline of July 23. Jaeger said that letter is the “controlling” document, affixed with his signature.

He said the error occurred as his office received the three proposed referrals with similar timelines on the same day and tried to treat each separately but missed the wrong dates in proofreading.

“I don’t like to have things like this happen, but the letter was correct,” Jaeger said.

Kuntz has no recourse for getting two more days, as the state constitution lays out the referral process.

Yes, the constitution outlines the process. But the constitution also assigns the job of enforcement to the Secretary of State. It always seems that error made by citizens are strictly enforced, while errors made by government don’t really matter and citizens just have to live with it.

Whether or not this two day error would make the difference is not the point, this is just the most recent in a long list of errors made by the Secretary of State.

Back in 2014, Rob posted a long list of problems that had happened up to that point in the office.

Perhaps a future measure will be that errors made by the Secretary of State like this will default to whatever benefits the citizens. After all, it’s not the petitioners’ job to make sure the Secretary of State does his properly.