Error might sink measureBISMARCK — Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Thursday rejected an initiative petition that seeks to repeal North Dakota’s restrictions on pharmacy ownership, saying it did not include a required list of the proposal’s sponsors. Jaeger said he believed the flaw would disqualify the measure from appearing on the November ballot. The high-profile ballot measure was touted by its backers as a way to cut North Dakotans’ prescription drug costs.
By: By Dale Wetzel, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Secretary of State Al Jaeger on Thursday rejected an initiative petition that seeks to repeal North Dakota’s restrictions on pharmacy ownership, saying it did not include a required list of the proposal’s sponsors.
Jaeger said he believed the flaw would disqualify the measure from appearing on the November ballot. The high-profile ballot measure was touted by its backers as a way to cut North Dakotans’ prescription drug costs.
Tammy Ibach, a spokeswoman for the repeal effort, said the group was consulting attorneys about what to do next. Ibach and other supporters of the measure turned in their petitions Wednesday.
North Dakota law gives backers of an initiated measure 20 days to correct or change their petition if the secretary of state finds any errors. However, Jaeger said in an interview with The Associated Press that he did not believe the petition’s problems could be repaired.
State law requires that initiative petitions be circulated in their entirety, and that would include a list of the proposal’s sponsors, Jaeger said. He has previously rejected petitions circulated for other measures because they did not have a list of sponsors attached, he said.
“If it was circulated without the beginning part of it, I don’t know how you can correct that,” he said. “It’s done already.”
An initiative petition seeks to change North Dakota law or the state constitution by bypassing the Legislature and putting a measure directly on the ballot for voters to approve or reject.
An initiated state law requires petition signatures from at least 12,844 eligible North Dakota voters to qualify for a statewide vote. A proposed constitutional amendment needs twice as many names — 25,688.
Petitions include a list of the initiative’s sponsoring committee, which must include at least 25 North Dakota voters; a short description of what the measure does; the legal text of the measure; and a notarized statement in which a petition’s circulator attests that its signatures are genuine.
Ibach said the circulators of the pharmacy petition always had a full copy of the petition, with the sponsoring committee’s names attached, close at hand. But the page was left off the petitions that people signed, Ibach said.
The measure was aimed at repealing North Dakota’s requirement that pharmacists hold controlling ownership of most pharmacies. The mandate has been part of state law since the early 1960s and has survived a U.S. Supreme Court challenge.
Large retailers who operate pharmacies, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Walgreen Co., say the North Dakota law bars them from running their own pharmacies and offering their customers national discount programs on prescription drugs.
Opponents of the restrictions mounted an intensive lobbying campaign in the 2009 Legislature to repeal it, opposed by many rural pharmacists and some pharmacies that are exempt from the restrictions. The North Dakota House defeated the proposal.
The North Dakota Constitution requires the secretary of state to review and approve the form of an initiative petition. He or she may not change its content.