The petition for the North Dakota iteration of Marsy’s Law – touted as supporters as a bill of rights for the victims of crimes – has been approved for circulation by the Secretary of State’s Office.
Supporters will need 26,904 valid signatures by July 11 to get it on the November 2016 ballot. They would have to hit that number by February 15 to make the June 2016 ballot.
Given that this group is extremely well funded and staffed by political professionals, I don’t think either deadline would be an obstacle. You can get members of the public to sign just about any crazy petition, so it’s really a question of how many people a measure campaign can get out circulating petitions.
And given the money behind Marsy’s Law in North Dakota, you can bet they can hire a lot of petition circulators.
According to reporting from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office the Marsy’s Law for North Dakota, LLC (which is listed as the sponsoring committee for the measure) has received $421,969 in contributions as of December 22 (click for a larger view).
All that money came from one person: California billionaire Henry Nicholas who made his fortune founding the Broadcom Corporation. Nicholas is brother to the “Marsy” in “Marsy’s Law.” Marsalee Nicholas was shot to death by her ex-boyfriend in 1983, and her brother named the victims rights policy he helped put in place in California after her.
Now he’s taken the effort national under the banner of Marsy’s Law for All.
The fact that this measure is funded entirely by a billionaire from California is going to be a big obstacle for its supporters in North Dakota to overcome, I think. The optics of a rich man buying his pet project onto the ballot in North Dakota is going to leave a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. That Nicholas is also a person with an…interesting background will also muddy the waters.
And even setting the provenance of the measure aside, there are a lot of good reasons to think that giving victims rights in criminal proceedings they have no standing in (it’s the state versus the accused, remember) is a really, really bad idea.
Here’s the full press release from the Marsy’s Law committee announcing the approval of their petition: