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Dale Wetzel, Associated Press, Published August 04 2010

Many North Dakota ballot measures falling short

BISMARCK – Backers of several North Dakota ballot measures said they were short of their signature goals before today’s midnight deadline for filing petitions to get on the November general election ballot.

Of the 10 measures that have been seeking petition signatures, supporters of only two initiatives had informed Secretary of State Al Jaeger that they intended to turn in their paperwork today. The measures seek to ban hunting within fenced game preserves and abolish North Dakota’s requirement that pharmacists own a majority stake in most pharmacies.

Any measure that does not qualify for a November vote could be put on the ballot in a future election, if supporters get the required number of signatures from eligible North Dakota voters. For a constitutional amendment to go directly on the ballot, an initiative petition needs at least 25,688 signatures; a proposed state law needs 12,844.

The eight remaining measures included constitutional amendments to ban property taxes, limit the service of state officeholders and legislators, establish an independent commission for legislative redistricting, and make it more difficult for North Dakota’s state and local governments to regulate religious behavior.

The proposed state laws would allow fireworks stands to sell bottle rockets, require that state legislators read bills and resolutions before voting for them, raise the state’s wholesale taxes on beer, wine and liquor, and impose new restrictions on abortion.

Charlene Nelson of Casselton said the constitutional amendment to ban property taxes was short of its signature goal Tuesday night.

“It doesn’t look like we’re going to make it,” Nelson said. “But I’m still waiting for a few numbers. This is going to be a nail-biter.”

The “religious liberty restoration amendment” was about 3,000 signatures short of its goal, said Tom Freier of Fargo, the chairman of the initiative campaign.

“We’re still optimistic, but as you might guess, 3,000 is a pretty large number to come up with in one day,” Freier said.

Supporters of the measures on term limits, abortion, bottle rockets and legislative redistricting said their proposals would not be on the November ballot.

“I think it’s probably dead in the water, it’s pretty safe to say,” said Tory Otto, of Mandan, the chairman of the term-limits campaign.

It sought to limit state legislators and any statewide officeholder to no more than two terms in office, starting in November.

“I think there is a different route that we may be taking,” Otto said of the term-limits measure. “We had a decent idea, but we all let it fail.”