Referendum for Auditor Law Won’t Make the Deadline


“Not making the referendum deadline.”

That’s what Riley Kuntz, the organizer behind the “Audit the Swamp” campaign to refer three pieces of legislation passed by lawmakers earlier this year to the statewide ballot for a potential veto vote, told me today.

His group had already missed the deadline on two other referendum campaigns – one regarding an appropriation for the Teddy Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora and the other an exemption from open records laws for lawmaker emails to state officials – and now the third petition regarding limits on the state Auditor’s authority has failed as well.

Which may not make much of a difference. An opinion from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem earlier this month found that the law, which would have required the Auditor’s office to come begging to a legislative committee for permission for performance audits, was likely unconstitutional. Current Auditor Josh Gallion has said that, based on the opinion, he’ll disregard the law and it doesn’t seem the Legislature is going to do anything to enforce it.

Many lawmakers I’ve spoken to say they plan to repeal the legislation during the 2021 session.

I asked Kuntz how close he came on the Auditor petition, but he didn’t respond. He hasn’t provided signature totals for any of the petitions he helped launch.

State law gives petitioners 90 days to collect over 13,000 signatures to refer a law passed by the Legislature to the ballot. That is a short, short timeline especially given that the signature requirement is the same as an initiated measure (the creation of new law at the ballot box).

Initiated measure petitions have a year to collect their signatures.