It was a rough night to be a tea partier in the Peace Garden State. North Dakota voters Tuesday rejected two controversial ballot measures that would have eliminated property taxes and strengthened the rights of religious groups, and agreed to allow the University of North Dakota to retire its “Fighting Sioux” nickname.
Measure 2, which would have eliminated all property taxes in the state, was soundly rejected, with 77 percent of voters opposing the measure and only 23 percent supporting it. Measure 3, which would have prohibited government from “burden[ing] a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty” unless it had a “compelling government interest,” received support from only 36 percent of voters, with 64 percent opposing it.
Measure 3 had been created in response to government initiatives that supporters said infringed on religious liberty, such as the government requiring health insurance companies to provide reproductive health care to policyholders. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Tom Frier, president of the North Dakota Family Alliance, said the measure was necessary “Because of what we see around us … that level of intrusion by the government.”
Opponents of the measure included women’s groups and groups that support victims of child abuse. On the website of North Dakota Against Measure Three, opponents said the measure was overbroad, and that “Measure 3 could allow a person to take advantage and use personal religious beliefs to claim the right to break important laws that are meant to protect all of us, like laws against child abuse, domestic violence and discrimination.”
Tom Fiebiger, chair of North Dakotans Against Measure Three, praised the outcome. In a statement given to Care2 Causes, Fiebiger said, “Tonight, North Dakotans of all faiths and all walks of life voted no on Measure Three. We are grateful North Dakotans did the right thing and rejected this unnecessary and potentially dangerous Measure.”
Measure 2 was straightforward. It would have eliminated all property, acreage, and poll taxes, blowing an $800 million hole in North Dakota’s budget. The measure was promoted by Ron Paul supporters, and even drew video support from Rep. Paul himself. Nevertheless, the measure was opposed by almost everyone not on the libertarian fringe, from the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce to the North Dakota Public Employees’ Association to the state PTA to the North Dakota Soybean Association.
Fighting Sioux Nickname Retired
North Dakota voters also voted to let the University of North Dakota retire its “Fighting Sioux” nickname. The university had planned to do so after facing pressure from the NCAA, but a series of legislative changes had cast that in doubt. The issue was ultimately thrown to the ballot, where voters supported the measure by a two-to-one margin, with 67 percent of voters in favor of retiring the name, while only 33 percent were opposed.
Berg, Heitkamp Advance to General Election
November’s general election matchup for U.S. Senate was officially set, with Rep. Rick Berg, R-N.D., winning his primary over Duane Sand, the former Dakotas director of Americans for Prosperity. Berg will face former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp, who was running unopposed for the Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party nomination.
Polls have shown a close race to replace retiring Sen. Kent Conrad, D-NPL-N.D. A June Mason-Dixon poll showed Heitkamp with a slim 47 percent to 46 percent lead over Berg, while a Forum Communications poll in May gave Berg the lead.
In the race to replace Berg, Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer defeated Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk for the GOP nomination, winning 54 percent of the vote to Cramer’s 45 percent. Former State Rep. Pam Gulleson, D-NPL-Rutland, was running unopposed in her primary.
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