Election Day quandary: What to wear? ‘Neutral’ Fighting Sioux jersey OK to wear while voting at Grand Forks polling placesSo the question came up: When you go to the polls on June 12 to vote in the North Dakota primary election, does it matter what you wear? More specifically, can you wear your favorite University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey jersey or sweatshirt when you go to vote on Measure 4, the Fighting Sioux nickname question?
By: By Chuck Haga , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
So the question came up: When you go to the polls on June 12 to vote in the North Dakota primary election, does it matter what you wear?
More specifically, can you wear your favorite University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux hockey jersey or sweatshirt when you go to vote on Measure 4, the Fighting Sioux nickname question?
The answer is a slightly qualified yes, at least in Grand Forks County.
Debbie Nelson, the county auditor, said that she heard people wondering whether such attire could lead to their being turned away from the polls, so she checked with Grand Forks County State’s Attorney Peter Welte.
“He said it’s OK,” Nelson said. “It’s not going to be an issue.”
It likely would be an issue, however, if you try to vote while wearing a hat or jersey bearing some variation of the “Save the Fighting Sioux” campaign slogan, she said.
Al Jaeger, the North Dakota secretary of state, said that state election laws do forbid the wearing of buttons or other materials designed to promote a candidate at a polling place, and the law also applies to ballot measures.
From the North Dakota Century Code, Section 16.1-10-03:
“No individual may buy, sell, give, or provide any political badge, button, or any insignia within a polling place or within 100 feet from the entrance to the room containing the polling place while it is open for voting. No such political badge, button, or insignia may be worn within that same area while a polling place is open for voting.”
Anyone committing such “electioneering on election day” would be guilty of an infraction, which carries a fine of up to $500.
“It would be up to a local prosecutor to decide” whether a jersey bearing the Fighting Sioux name and logo violated the proscription against electioneering, Jaeger said.
“However, poll workers would probably ask someone to remove a button, shirt, etc., for (Republican U.S. Senate candidate Rick) Berg or (Democratic-NPL U.S. Senate candidate Heidi) Heitkamp or any one of the candidates,” he said.
“So would wearing Sioux apparel be a violation? It depends if someone thinks it would be an ‘insignia’ and trying to influence a vote one way or other on Measure 4.”
Again, Welte — the local prosecutor — has indicated that won’t be an issue, as long as “it’s a shirt or jersey you took out of your closet, just a regular shirt,” Nelson said.
But a jersey that says “Save the Fighting Sioux,” or “No More Fighting Sioux,” or “Vote Yes (or No) on Measure 4” would be considered “not appropriate,” she said.
Measure 4 will ask voters to uphold or reject the Legislature’s repeal of a state law requiring UND to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname. Thus, a “yes” vote will be to allow UND to retire the name. A “no” vote will have the effect of requiring UND to keep the nickname.
UND, facing NCAA sanctions because of the name, has twice started retiring it, fearing its continued use will lead to serious consequences for the university. Nickname supporters, including the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, discount the effect of sanctions and dispute claims by the NCAA and others that the name’s use harms American Indians.
Chuck Haga is a reporter
at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.