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Shaw: Disrespecting the voters in Bismarck

"It doesn’t matter that they don’t like ballot measures and they don’t like the results. The will of the voters needs to be respected," columnist Jim Shaw writes

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

As the stormtroopers in the North Dakota Legislature continue to try to ban books, persecute minorities, prevent medical treatment and censor the public schools, there’s something else you need to know. They’re trying to take away our voting rights.

Last November, North Dakota voters overwhelmingly passed term limits, with more than 63% of the vote. It means members of the Legislature are limited to eight years per chamber, for a total of 16 years (still too long), while the governor is limited to eight years in office.

Now, several legislators, led by Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, are shamefully trying to change all that. They are trying to raise the legislative term limits to 12 years per chamber, for a total of 24 years. In other words, basically no term limits.

Kasper says state voters were confused when they approved the term limits. How does he know that? Has he talked to thousands of voters? Both in the media and on the ballot, the term limits measure was clearly explained.

Beyond that, it doesn’t matter if voters were confused. Many voters were likely confused when they voted for Kasper, but he still won.

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Kasper and the others have a lot of nerve. It doesn’t matter that they don’t like ballot measures and they don’t like the results. The will of the voters needs to be respected. It’s over. The voters have spoken. Accept the results of the election and move on.

Also disrespectful to voters is the Legislature’s effort to eliminate Fargo’s approval voting system. This system was overwhelmingly approved by Fargo voters, with a whopping 63.5% of the vote.

Approval voting became a necessity in Fargo because with so many candidates running, city commission candidates were being elected with less than 20% of the vote. That helped extremist candidates. With approval voting, people can vote for as many candidates as they like. So, winners are now receiving anywhere from 39% to 55% of the vote. It’s fairer and more democratic. Rather than more popular candidates splitting the vote, the winners now receive lots of support.

State Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, is leading the charge to ban approval voting. Koppelman needs to explain what the harm is. He needs to explain why the Legislature feels the need to interfere with local control. He also needs to explain why it’s any of the Legislature’s business. Lastly, he needs to explain why the Legislature should insult the voters of Fargo.

Koppelman, pretending to be Abraham Lincoln, calls approval voting “not American.” What’s not American is losing a free and fair election and then claiming it was stolen. What’s not American is a violent insurrection trying to overturn the results of an election. What’s not American is 147 members of the U.S. House and Senate, including Minnesota Rep. Michelle Fischbach, voting to overturn the results of a free and fair election.

Speaking of disrespectful, it was reprehensible, offensive and appalling for Republican Sens. Mike Wobbema and Janne Myrdal to turn their backs during a Senate prayer calling for unity and love.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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