Bill that would ban approval voting was rightly vetoed

North Dakota lawmakers may attempt to override the veto.

Jed Limke.jpg
Jed Limke
Contributed / Jed Limke

Q: When is 95 > 30,092?

Back in 2015, we had a special election to fill a Fargo City Commission seat that was vacated, indirectly, due to the death of Mayor Dennis Walaker. The winner of that election won with four out of every five Fargo voters not voting for him.

The following year at our regular June election, seven out of every 10 Fargo voters didn’t vote for the first-place finisher of that one, either.

To address this, a group of Fargo citizens from every walk of life and political creed volunteered to collect signatures for a ballot measure to amend Fargo’s Home Rule Charter to adopt approval voting for our local city elections. In response to this simple four-sentence initiative, 30,092 Fargo voters approved the measure during the second-highest-turnout election in North Dakota history.

When it came to who voted for the measure and where in that November 2018 election, it didn’t matter if they were Heitkamp precincts or Cramer precincts; Trump precincts or Biden precincts; red or blue, rich or poor, downtown or suburban — approval voting won in every Fargo precinct by at least 15 points.


Approval voting passed because it is a commonsense solution for a real problem that plagued our elections. We worked hard to educate as many voters as possible on the merits of the solution and voters overwhelmingly supported the solution we proposed.

Approval voting gives you the freedom to say “yes” or “no” to every candidate instead of just one or two. If you only like one, you only have to vote for one. If you like a few, you can approve them all. Thanks to this freedom, it strengthens your vote and gives you the ability to make your voice better heard than before. No ranking; no runoffs — just simplicity. It’s so simple, in fact, that it’s compatible with every piece of election equipment across the state — a major reason we chose to fight for it, knowing it wouldn’t cost a dime.

Yet now, some state representatives and senators — fearful of the decisions we’ve made in Fargo, fearful of our right to self-determination — are also fearful, by their own admission, that our better election ideas may spread across the state ... so they’re working to take our rights away through House Bill 1273. This bill attacks not only Fargo’s democratically-enacted voting process, but also bars every other North Dakotan from doing the same should they wish to choose for themselves.

I applaud Gov. Doug Burgum for his recent veto of this bill. I applaud him for rightly understanding that the moves dozens of legislators have made to trample all of our rights fly in the face of the very foundations of democracy and home rule in our state.

But his veto and my applause may not be enough.

This week, some state legislators are going to attempt to override the governor’s veto and take away your rights. They’re going to try to ban what Fargo has done and what you might do next by foisting big government overreach upon us all. They just need 95 votes.

A: When you’re a state legislator who despises local control.

Limke led the successful effort to adopt approval voting in Fargo in 2018.

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