There May Be a Lot of Left Wing Initiated Measures on the Ballot This Election Cycle

Dina Butcher, left, hands North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger a proposed petition for a ballot measure to add anti-corruption policies to the state constitution Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018 at the state Capitol in Bismarck. John Hageman / Forum News Service

Earlier today I wrote about a proposed ballot measure which would raise North Dakota’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

That’s a proposal near and dear to the hearts of North Dakota progressives, but it’s not the only initiated measure coming from the left which may be on ballots this election cycle.

There are also:

I’m hesitant to call the last two exclusively left wing issues. I know plenty of Republicans who would be fine with legalizing recreational marijuana, but there’s no disputing the fact that the issue has been dead on arrival at the Republican-dominated Legislature. As for the Sunday closing law, a bill repealing it did pass the state House but died after push back from Republicans in the state Senate.

For what it’s worth, I’m for repealing the Sunday closing law and legalizing medical marijuana.

But from a political standpoint, there is a narrative we can draw from these five generally left-of-center ballot measures. From raising the minimum wage to anger among Democrats over oil tax reforms to creating an ethics commission, these are all issues which have failed at the Legislature. Now our liberal friends are taking them directly to the voters.

What will the impact be, assuming they all make the ballot (the Sunday closing measure definitely won’t, and I’d bet at least one other won’t as well)? Will Republican stances on some or all of these issues be repudiated by voters? Will these ballot measures bolster liberal enthusiasm and turnout at the polls, which in turn could result in gains for Democrats in state elected office?

That could happen. The reverse could also happen. A backlash against these proposals could also draw out right-of-center voters in a big way, hurting Democrats up to and including U.S. Senate incumbent Heidi Heitkamp.

For years now Democrats in North Dakota have been telling us that the “Republican super majority” is out of touch. Their media surrogates talk about the Legislature being nothing but a bunch of crusty old white men. These ballot measures may be a test of that hypothesis.

Is the Legislature out of touch? Or are its cumulative policy positions reflective of the will of a majority of North Dakotans?

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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