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Published June 13 2012

Forum editorial: Voters got Measure 2 message

The supporters of Measure 2 are licking their wounds today, having suffered one of the biggest defeats of a constitutional ballot measure in North Dakota history. The measure, which proposed to abolish local property taxes, got hammered by 77 percent of voters who said “no.” But undeterred, representatives of Empower the Taxpayer complained they were outspent by opponents (they were). They are preparing, they said, to bring their tax reform agenda to the 2013 Legislature. Let’s hope that agenda is more palatable than Measure 2.

Measure backers might have been outspent, but the reality is that the vigorous and lengthy debate about Measure 2 resulted in empowering voters with the knowledge necessary to make the right choice, which was “no.” Measure supporters opined that their message did not get out – that voters really never had a chance to hear their case.

How’s that?

If ever a grass-roots organization went high profile, Empower the Taxpayer was it. In the persons of Charlene Nelson of Casselton, Bob Hale of Minot and others, the organization pumped its message in every corner of the state. They either sponsored or participated in dozens of debates, radio interviews, TV spots and newspaper op-eds. They visited newspaper editorial boards. They made headlines with a lawsuit aimed at muzzling elected officials who opposed the measure. Nelson seemed to be everywhere during the final month of the campaign. She was available to media at a moment’s notice, and was always prepared to defend the measure in an informed and direct, but civil, manner. For measure supporters to whine that their message did not get out minimizes Nelson’s impressive efforts, and really does not reflect the facts.

Ironically, the success of their information campaign was the measure’s downfall. North Dakotans indeed understood Empower the Taxpayer’s agenda. The message was clear and wrong-headed. Voters got it.

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

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