North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" Referendum, Measure 4 (June 2012)

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Editor's note: Two initiatives were approved for petition circulation. Both relate to the University of North Dakota's nickname "Fighting Sioux." The article below calls for a veto referendum of a 2011 state law - SB 2370. Another proposal, a constitutional amendment, would require use of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname." To read about that measure, click here.


North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" Referendum
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Type:Veto referendum
Referred by:citizens
Topic:Motto and symbols
Status:Approved Approveda
The North Dakota University "Fighting Sioux" Referendum was on the June 12, 2012, ballot in North Dakota as a veto referendum where it was approved. Signatures were filed on February 7, 2012, and were certified on March 13, 2012.[1][2][3]

Measure 4 allows the University of North Dakota to discontinue use of the "Fighting Sioux" nickname and logo by approving Senate Bill 2370, a law that repealed an earlier mandate requiring the use of the nickname. SB 2370 went into effect on December 1, 2011, and the university began the process of retiring the the nickname and logo.[4]

Measure 4 was proposed by members of the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe.[5]

A “Yes” vote on the measure means a vote for the University of North Dakota to drop the nickname, while a “No” vote keeps the nickname.[6]

Election results

The following are official election results:

Measure 4
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 113,865 67.34%
No55,22532.66%

426 of 426 precincts reporting


Results via the North Dakota Board of Elections.

Background

Spirit Lake Sioux tribe members filed a federal lawsuit against the NCAA in an effort to invalidate the policy against member colleges using American Indian nicknames and logos for their sports teams.[5]

According to reports, the University of North Dakota wants to get rid of its 81-year-old nickname after a dispute with the NCAA. The NCAA argues that the name, the "Fighting Sioux," and logo are offensive to Native Americans. The NCAA has allowed some schools to keep their nicknames by getting permission from tribes. In North Dakota, the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe has endorsed the nickname but the Standing Rock Sioux tribe has not.[5]

Text of measure

The measure as it appeared on the ballot said:[7]

This referendum measure concerns Senate Bill 2370 as passed by the Legislative Assembly in the November 2011 special session (Session Laws, Chapter 580). Senate Bill 2370 repealed section 15-10-46 of the North Dakota Century Code, which required the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

YES – means you approve Senate Bill 2370, the effect of which would allow the University of North Dakota to discontinue the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

NO – means you reject Senate Bill 2370, and would require the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Support

On December 1, 2011, the Spirit Lake Nation issued a statement announcing their intention to file petitions for the measure with the North Dakota Secretary of State on December 2, and to begin gathering the necessary signatures to place the North Dakota University Nickname Amendment on the 2012 ballot.[4][8]

Supporters

  • Spirit Lake Nation

Arguments

  • According to a statement issued by the tribe, the petition and proposed measure were an attempt to "Repeal the Repeal" of a mandate passed in 2011 that requires the University of North Dakota to continue to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo, and are part of a "fight to save our name and likeness, and the proud honor and traditions of our People which they represent."[8]
  • The Spirit Lake Nation further contended that the referendum would give the Standing Rock Sioux tribe a say in the matter.[8]

Controversies

  • According to the Spirit Lake Nation's statement, the "UND(University of North Dakota) and the SBHE(State Board of Higher Education) are not in compliance with the legislative intent behind Senate Bill 2370 passed in November 2011." The Spirit Lake tribe claims that there is a three year moratorium to allow for their lawsuit against the NCAA to play out, and that while the name cannot be used by teams during this time, the official retirement of the nickname and logo should not be taking place.[8]

Campaign contributions

The following information was obtained from North Dakota Secretary of State website.

PAC info:

PAC Amount raised
Committee for Understanding and Respect $7,563.73
Total $7,563.73

Opposition

Opponents

  • University of North Dakota Alumni Association and Foundation[9]
  • North Dakota Board of Higher Education

Arguments

  • In a column featured in the West Fargo Pioneer, columnist and former North Dakota Lieutenant Governor Lloyd Omdahl said, "Under the circumstances, the best way out of this mess would be abandonment of the petition drive. We could urge people not to sign the petitions but that would be hopeless because most folks aren’t aware of the damage the petitions will do to UND sports. Even the petitioners don’t seem to realize that. If the petitions are filed and both measures go on the ballot, thousands of dollars will be wasted on the campaigns. Money will be spent on both sides of the issue. Valuable time will be diverted at the University for months to fight passage of these measures. It will be a costly affair."[10]
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  • University of North Dakota men's hockey coach Dave Hakstol, a former supporter of the nickname, spoke out against it on February 16 saying that he thinks it is time to retire the nickname and move on. Hakstol argued that the NCAA will not will not back down on sanctions against the school and that it is possible UND will get dumped from the Big Sky Conference if the nickname is used. Hakstol summed up his feelings saying, "With all of these factors in mind, I don't see any way that the University of North Dakota can be a fully successful Division I entity across all sports if we continue to mandate by law the use of the Fighting Sioux."[11]

Polls

See also: Polls, 2012 ballot measures
  • A May 3-8, 2012, poll by Forum Communications revealed that 56% would vote 'yes' on the referendum, which means retiring the nickname, while 44% would vote 'No.' A total of 500 likely primary voters were polled. The margin of error was +/-4.3%.[12]
  • An early-June 2012 poll by Mason-Dixon revealed that 59% would vote against the amendment, 36% would vote for it, and 5% were undecided. A total of 404 likely primary voters were polled. The margin of error was +/-5%.[13]
Date of Poll Pollster In favor Opposed Undecided Number polled
May 3 - May 8 Forum Communications 56% 44% 0% 500
Early-June Mason Dixon 59% 36% 5% 404


Lawsuit

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012

North Dakota State Board of Higher Education V. Jaeger

On Monday, February 14, 2012, North Dakota's Board of Higher Education voted to file a lawsuit aimed at keeping the referendum off the ballot. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he believes the North Dakota Supreme Court will weigh in on the dispute quickly, and that the court has invoked it's original jurisdiction before to hear high profile cases before and will likely do so so this case.[14][15]

The state Supreme Court has taken up the case and has set a March 2, 2012, deadline for responses to the lawsuit. The court has asked the referendum's sponsoring committee if it wants to respond as well. Secretary of State Al Jaeger has been named the defendant.[16] Secretary Jaeger has hired attorneys Sarah Andrews Herman and Matthew Kipp of Fargo to represent his office in the suit.[17]

Hearings for the case were held in an hour long session before the state Supreme Court on Thursday, March 15, 2012, with both sides receiving tough questioning. Justices questioned the board on the reasons for their tardiness in seeking court action, Justice Daniel Crothers asked, "That harm has been there since the statute was passed almost a year ago... Why now? Why in the face of a referral?" The court was also critical of the defense's claims that regulating the nickname and logo were within the legislature's constitutional rights. Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle said the state's arguments were so broad that it "would consume the constitutional authority of the board, if the Legislature wanted to do it." The court said it would rule at a later date.[18]

On April 3, the state Supreme Court delivered a ruling refusing to block the referendum from the June ballot.[19]

  • The Supreme Court's ruling can be found here.

Path to the ballot

See also: North Dakota signature requirements

Supporters were required to collect and submit a minimum of 13,452 valid signatures by February 7, 2012 in order to qualify the proposed measure for the June primary 2012 statewide ballot.

The proposed measure was filed with the Secretary of State on Friday, December 2, 2011. If valid petitions for a referendum are submitted to the state, the implementation of SB 2370 will be suspended until the the measure is voted on in 2012.[4]

The petition language was approved for petition circulation by Secretary of State Al Jaeger on December 13, 2011.[20]

In mid-December 2011 supporters announced that they plan to seek a court order to force Ralph Engelstad Arena to allow the circulation of initiative petitions at hockey games.[21] On December 29, 2011 Grand Forks County District Judge Sonja Clapp denied the request, but noted that a hearing would be scheduled in early January to determine if petitioners can move inside the arena for future events.[22]

Submitted signatures

The referendum's sponsoring committee delivered 17,000 signatures on 604 petitions on February 7, 2012, thereby qualifying for the June 12 primary elections ballot.[2]

Signature verification

On March 13, 2012, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger determined that out of the 16,824 signatures submitted, 14,901 were qualified, putting supporters 1,449 name over what was required.[3]

Timeline

Calendar.png

The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
Signature filing Feb. 7, 2012 Signatures were submitted by supporters to the secretary of state.
Signature verification Mar. 13, 2012 North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger confirmed that supporters collected sufficient signatures.

See also

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External links

Additional reading

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References

  1. Grand Forks Herald,"Group wants Sioux nickname in N.D. constitution," November 17, 2011
  2. 2.0 2.1 Grand Fork Herald "Fighting Sioux nickname supporters file petitions with 17,000 signatures," February 7, 2012
  3. 3.0 3.1 InForum "Jaeger places Sioux nickname, logo referendum on June 12 ballot," March 13, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Grand Forks Herald "Nickname backers to file petition forms Friday," December 1, 2011
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Associated Press,"Tribal members look to put UND nickname on ballot in effort to keep Fighting Sioux moniker," November 17, 2011
  6. Associated Press,"Fighting Sioux ballot language changed after error," April 5, 2012
  7. Measure 4 text, retrieved from Secretary of State, April 25, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 ValleyNewsLive.com "Spirit Lake Statement on Repeal of Fighting Sioux Nickname Law," December 1, 2011
  9. INFORUM "UND Alumni Association, Foundation to announce campaign against Fighting Sioux nickname measure," April 30, 2012
  10. West Fargo Pioneer,"Sioux logo petitions threaten UND sports," December 28, 2011
  11. Crookston Times "Hakstol: Nickname law hurts UND," February 16, 2012
  12. Forum Communications Co. "Majority in Poll: Retire Fighting Sioux Nickname," May 16, 2012
  13. KFYR-TV "Primary Election Poll: Measures 2 and 4," June 11, 2012
  14. Associated Press "ND high court expected to take Fighting Sioux case," February 14, 2012
  15. Associated Press "North Dakota Higher Ed Board To Sue To Drop Fighting Sioux," February 14, 2012
  16. Associated Press "ND Supreme Court deadline on Fighting Sioux case," February 22, 2012
  17. Associated Press "ND Sec State gets lawyers in Fighting Sioux case," February 27, 2012
  18. Associated Press "'Fighting Sioux' Case Considered by North Dakota Supreme Court," March 16, 2012
  19. Minnesota Public Radio "Court won't block Fighting Sioux name vote," April 5, 2012
  20. WDAY,"Sioux nickname petitions ready to be signed," December 13, 2011
  21. The Republic,"UND Fighting Sioux nickname petitioners plan legal action to access Ralph Engelstad Arena," December 24, 2011
  22. Grand Forks Herald,"FIGHTING SIOUX NICKNAME: For now, out in the cold," December 29, 2011