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Published June 27 2013

Forum editorial: Petitioners can’t duck their failure

Leaders of a petition drive to refer North Dakota’s restrictive abortion laws blame everyone but themselves for failure to get enough signatures to place the questions on the 2014 ballot. The effort collapsed when time allotted by state law to submit the signed petitions expired. The fault lies not with others but in what appears to be a less-than-focused drive to get the required 13,452 signatures for each petition. The referral petitions were aimed at three laws passed by the 2013 Legislature.

Roland Reimers, secretary of North Dakota Referral Supporters, went after Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Reimers, who has a history of applying his own spin to easily understood rules and regulations, said Jaeger “not only violated his own guidelines but the state constitution.” That’s nonsense.

A perusal of the process Jaeger used (and always uses for ballot measures) finds he dotted every “i” and crossed every “t.” It is likely Jaeger was especially careful with the abortion law petitions because of the secretary’s previous clashes with Reimers. In any case, an objective review of Jaeger’s work can only conclude he operated precisely within the law and guidelines promulgated by the law.

One of the other leaders of the signature effort, Gary Hangsleben, is perturbed because Jaeger refused to grant the petitioners a 90-day extension to gather signatures. State law does not permit an extension. Jaeger is bound by the law. And if cheap shots at Jaeger weren’t enough to highlight the petitioners’ incompetence, Hangsleben blamed the Red River Women’s Health Clinic, the state’s only abortion provider, for refusing to participate in the referrals. Where has he been?

Clinic officials said months ago they would take the legal route, not the ballot option. The clinic and its supporters have directed their public relations and fundraising to pursuing the matter in state and federal courts. That’s the way they said they would go, even as the abortion bills were being debated in the Legislature last winter. The position has been consistent with a posting by the clinic director urging opponents of the abortion laws to not support the referrals. If that’s a surprise to Reimers and Hangsleben, well, they need to get out more.

Cut through their silly rhetoric and you find this: They screwed up. They didn’t get the signatures because they didn’t work hard enough. They had neither the organization nor support to succeed. The failure to make their case is theirs. The pathetic attempt to blame others compounds their incompetence.

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