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Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald , Published April 05 2012

Revised ballot: ‘Yes’ means ‘no’ to Fighting Sioux nickname

GRAND FORKS - Now “yes” means “no,” and “no” means “yes.”

And yes, we’re talking about the Fighting Sioux nickname and the question that will appear on the June 12 primary election ballot.

As if the long-running issue needed any more twists and turns, a contrite Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said today that he and his staff attorneys reviewed ballot language they had approved earlier for the referendum and determined they had missed the mark.

Stenehjem said state law requires voters on a referred measure to vote up or down on that measure, just as legislators had done when they passed it. So voters in the June primary will be asked to vote for or against Senate Bill 2370, which was adopted during the November special session and repealed the statute adopted last spring requiring UND to keep using the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.

Thus, a “yes” vote will be a vote for repeal — and for allowing UND to drop the name.

A “no” vote will be against repeal — and for leaving the nickname mandate in place.

The challenge, Stenehjem said, “is that we’re dealing with a double negative,” which nickname supporters actually turned into a campaign slogan — “Repeal the repeal!” — as they circulated petitions to get the measure on the ballot.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger released the original “approved” ballot language Wednesday, including an explanation that said, in part, “Approval of the referendum measure would mandate the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo by the University of North Dakota.”

As the Herald headline explained in reporting how the measure would appear, “‘Yes’ means ‘yes’ to keep nickname.”

But scratch that.

Stenehjem, who had approved that language, took another look today, consulted members of his staff, did more research and advised Jaeger that the language would have to be changed.

“When the Legislature passed Senate Bill 2370, members voted affirmatively to repeal the requirement of the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo,” he wrote. “I believe the ballot measure must likewise be on the legislative bill itself, which would require a ‘yes’ vote to repeal the law that required use of the nickname and logo.

“It is critical, as you recognize, that the measure be clearly and concisely stated so there is no confusion by the electorate. Therefore, I have redrafted the proposed ballot language and included a clear statement of the effect of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote.”

Here is the new ballot language Stenehjem submitted today to Jaeger:

“Referendum Measure No. 4

“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.”

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