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Patrick Springer, Published August 06 2010

Pharmacy measure petitions incomplete

Backers of a ballot proposal to allow chain-store ownership of pharmacies in North Dakota took pains to submit only petition signatures they were confident would withstand review.

After crossing out illegible signatures, they submitted petitions Wednesday with 12,905 signatures – just 91 more than required by law.

But they forgot to include a list of sponsoring committee members with each of the petition sheets turned in – a lapse election officials said cannot allow the measure to go on the November ballot as submitted.

“The 526 petitions submitted to this office do not contain the names of the sponsoring committee members as part of the petition,” Secretary of State Al Jaeger wrote in a letter to the group.

Because not every petition that was submitted included the names of the sponsoring committee members, the petitions were incomplete under state law and therefore unacceptable by law, Jaeger’s letter explained.

“You do, however, have twenty days to correct or amend the submitted petitions,” he wrote.

Tammy Ibach, a spokeswoman for the group seeking the law change, said organizers are talking to lawyers about how to resolve the problem.

“We’ve already taken it to counsel,” she said. “Nobody has said the problem can’t be solved. Do we feel it’s fixable? Absolutely.”

North Dakota law requires pharmacies to be majority-owned by pharmacists licensed in the state, except for stores that were “grandfathered in” before the law took effect almost half a century ago.

Big chains, such as Walmart and Walgreens, are among those favoring repeal of the law, which they argue is anticompetitive.

Independent pharmacists maintain that the law benefits consumers and helps to keep rural drugstores open.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522