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Published May 12 2012

Forum editorial: Vote smart in June 12 primary

Less than a month from today, North Dakotans will go to the polls in municipal, primary and statewide elections. The June 12 ballot will be packed not only with candidates for school boards, city commissions and park boards but also with state ballot measures and, in Fargo, an infrastructure sales tax extension.

If there is good news in a political season (cynics would say “no”), it’s that very few local officeholders are without challengers. For example, 11 candidates and incumbents are on the Fargo School Board ballot (for only three slots), which means either there are a lot of axes grinding out there or hopefuls sincerely want to improve schools. The better angels in our nature would conclude the latter.

While local elections generate a lot of interest, the statewide primary ballot includes two historic contests. On the Republican side, endorsed candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are confronting challenges from candidates who represent what has been charitably called a splinter group of the establishment party. It’s a first in that both challengers decided to forgo the party endorsement process and go right to the primary. And it’s a peculiar first because both challengers have, in the past, received the party’s endorsement. Should either win on June 12, what does that say about the tenuousness of the establishment party’s connection to the rank and file?

Three of four constitutional measures on the ballot are stirring passions and foolishness of the likes the state seldom sees. Measure 2 would abolish local property taxes and the local control that goes with local taxes. Measure 3 purports to protect religious liberty, which, by any honest measure, does not need protection in North Dakota. Measure 4 asks for a “yes” vote to retire the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname and imagery – a “yes” because a clumsy Legislature first voted to preserve the nickname, then reversed itself. Voters will vote on the reversal, that is, a “yes” affirms the Legislature’s second thoughts.

If all that is not enough to make a voter’s head ache, Fargo city voters can extend a half-cent sales tax to continue to fund permanent flood control and associated projects. This one has generated debate, although it should not have. It appears the short-term memory crowd has been bamboozled by a flood-free spring.

A busy ballot should prompt voters to educate themselves about candidates, measures and tax questions. The June primary sometimes gets scant attention, what with North Dakotans cranking up for summer activities, but this one is important. The results will affect the lives of everyone in the state. Pay attention. Get involved. Vote smart.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.