North Dakota Voters Sidestep Controversies
By Daniel C. Vock, Staff Writer
North Dakota voters shied away from several controversies at the polls Tuesday (June 12), including bids to eliminate property taxes, to prevent the University of North Dakota from dropping its “Fighting Sioux” nickname and to strengthen protections for people who claim government actions violate their religious beliefs.
North Dakota was one of several states to hold primaries, including Maine, Nevada and South Carolina, which also featured intraparty fights, often between incumbents, as lawmakers ran in newly drawn districts.
In North Dakota, the hotly debated ballot measures all appeared early Wedenesday morning to be decided by lopsided margins.
Voters decisively defeated an effort to make North Dakota the first state to abolish all property taxes. The grassroots effort to remove the foundation of local government funding never gained widespread support, especially because it was opposed by virtually the entire political establishment of the state, from the union of state workers to the Chamber of Commerce. Opponents said the shift would greatly reduce local control of schools and municipalities.
Tuesday's vote to allow the Fighting Sioux nickname to be retired was the culmination of more than five years of wrangling over the moniker. The National Collegiate Athletic Association ordered the university to change the name, which long offended some American Indian groups. The NCAA threatened to ban the use of UND’s nickname and logo during postseason sports tournaments and block the school from hosting such tournaments. Reluctantly, the school and state lawmakers acquiesced.
The ballot question was an effort to reverse that course. Even with its defeat, though, voters may address the issue again in November, notes The Associated Press. The group backing the nickname says it wants to amend the state constitution in this fall’s election to keep the name.
A proposal backed by the Catholic Church to protect “religious liberty” also met defeat. The proposal would have required governments to make policies that imposed the least “burden” on residents’ religious beliefs. Critics claimed the measure was vaguely worded and could lead to needless lawsuits.
In South Carolina, candidates who were booted from the ballot by recent court rulings came out to polling places to try to get signatures to try to qualify for another run in November. Republican Governor Nikki Haley signed some of the petitions, because, she said on her Facebook page, “the process is better served when voters have a choice about who represents them.”
In all, 248 challengers for state legislative and local offices were stricken from the ballot on a technicality, while incumbents were left unscathed. As a result, one out of six South Carolina voters had nothing to vote on, according to The State. Turnout Tuesday was extremely low, but the longest-serving member of the state House lost to a fellow lawmaker.
In Nevada, liberal Democrats won a major victory by ousting an incumbent state senator, writes the Las Vegas Sun. Senator John Lee had the backing of local powerhouse, U.S. Senator Harry Reid, but Lee had angered environmentalists and other liberal groups.
Democrats control the upper chamber in Carson City 11-10, making even small changes in membership significant. The Republican caucus in recent years has been plagued by constant in-fighting between conservatives and moderates. “This was the first time in memory,” the Sun writes, “that Nevada progressives have taken on an incumbent lawmaker.”