Laws governing the initiative process in North Dakota (archive)

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In North Dakota, citizens may create new state statutes and constitutional amendments through the initiative process. Ballot initiatives may be placed on either the state's June primary election ballot or the November general election ballot.

Beginning the process

Proponents are required to file their petition with the North Dakota Secretary of State for approval before they can circulate the petition. The request for approval must be presented with the names and signatures of twenty-five or more electors as sponsors, one of whom must be designated as chairman of the sponsoring committee. The Secretary of State will approve the petition for circulation if it is in proper form and contains the names and addresses of the sponsors and the full text of the measure.

Additionally, upon receipt of the petition, the Secretary of State will draft a short and concise statement which must fairly represent the measure. The statement must then be submitted to the Attorney General for approval or disapproval. An approved statement must be affixed to the petition before it is circulated for signatures. This statement is called the ballot title, and must be placed immediately before the full text of the measure. The Secretary of State and the Attorney General must complete their review of the petition in not less than five, nor more than seven, business days.

Signature deadlines

Initiatives can be submitted at any time, but only one year is allowed to collect signatures for any one measure.

  • Initiatives are placed on the next election ballot after signatures are certified, which could be the general election ballot, a primary ballot, or even a special election.

Exception: Sometimes when the legislature calls a special election for a referred ballot measure they ban the placement of any initiatives on that special election ballot, in which case the initiative will be on the next ballot.

Distribution requirement

North Dakota does not have a distribution requirement.

Signature requirements

Since North Dakota does not have a voter registration system, the number of signatures required is tied to the population reported by the last decennial census. As such, any US Citizen who is at least 18 years old and who has resided in the state for at least thirty days may sign an initiative petition. For statutes and veto referendums, the number of signatures required is 2 percent of the population. For constitutional amendments, it is 4 percent of the population. For recall, signatures must equal 25 percent of the votes cast for that particular office in the last election. Officials in Congress are exempt from recall. A signer's name must be legibly printed on a petition and the signer's zip code must be included.

Year Constitutional amendment Initiated statute Veto referendum
2016 26,904 13,452 13,452
2014 26,904 13,452 13,452
2012 26,904 13,452 13,452
2010 25,688 12,844 12,844
2008 25,688 12,844 12,844

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: North Dakota Constitution, Article III, Sections 4, 9, & 10


Signatures are due for certification 90 days before the upcoming election. North Dakota does not a have a voter registration process. As a result, there are no registered voters. Proponents, however, must collect the signatures of North Dakota residents. The Secretary of State then conducts a representative random sampling of the signatures contained in the petitions by the use of questionnaires, post cards, telephone calls, personal interviews, or other accepted information-gathering techniques to determine the validity of the signatures.

Single-subject restriction

There is no single-subject rule for North Dakota initiatives.

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

The North Dakota State Legislature can repeal or amend an initiated state statute by a 2/3 vote of each house for seven years after passage. Once seven years have elapsed, a simple majority vote in the state legislature is required.

Restrictions on petition circulation


Circulators of the petition must be residents of North Dakota.


Initiative sponsors are forbidden to compensate initiative circulators on a pay-per-signature basis.

I&R Institute v. Jaeger

In the case of Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld North Dakota's law which banned paying circulators on a per-signature basis. The law that was upheld says:

N.D. Cent. Code &sect16.1-01-12(11)

"It is unlawful for a person to…pay or offer to pay any person, or receive payment or agree to receive payment, on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained for circulating an initiative, referendum, or recall petition. This subsection does not prohibit the payment of salary and expenses for circulation of the petition on a basis not related to the number of signatures obtained, as long as the circulators file their intent to remunerate prior to submitting the petitions…"[1]

In 2008 in the case of Nader v. Brewer, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned Arizona's residency requirement and took issue with Jaeger, saying, "A brief Eighth Circuit opinion came to the opposite conclusion and upheld a residency requirement for initiative-petition circulators. See Initiative & Referendum Institute v. Jaeger. Krislov had been decided a few months earlier, but Jaeger did not cite it. The Tenth Circuit in Chandler did cite Jaeger and disagreed with it. We do not find Jaeger persuasive."

Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for North Dakota ballot measures

Some of the notable features of North Dakota's campaign finance laws include:

  • Corporate contributions are treated as direct expenditures in support or opposition of a referendum.
  • North Dakota bans corporate contributions while a legislative-referred referendum is in debate in the North Dakota Legislature.
  • Groups in support or opposition of a referendum must report all contributions of $500 or more within 48 hours during the final 20 days before the election.

Proposed changes


Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly include:


Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

There were no laws proposed in 2010 by members of the North Dakota Legislative Assembly.[2]

See also

External links