Repercussions from the invalidation of thousands of signatures on two citizen initiatives will be felt for quite some time in North Dakota.
Tuesday's announcement that the two citizen petitions one to legalize medical marijuana and one to create a state conservation fund would not appear on the November ballot was simply the first concrete ramification. There will be more to come.
Eleven people are charged with faking petition signatures, a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Eight of the 11 charged are current members of the North Dakota State University football team, which raises even more questions. NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor said Tuesday that the players would not be immediately disciplined, and that's perhaps acceptable given that the players haven't been convicted of anything, although another NDSU player was dismissed from the team recently after he was charged with indecent exposure. But if convicted, the 8 players should also be dismissed from the team. Their alleged actions are serious and represent a willing violation of the trust this state's residents put in the initiated measure process. Defending a national football championship may be important, but it simply cannot compare to breaking that trust.
Taylor's comments that the players' actions don't rise to the level of crimes committed by other student-athletes across the country may be true in a legal sense, he's missing a broader point.
The actions of the 11 people charged are a direct slap in the face to the people of North Dakota, and the unique citizen initiative process itself. Their alleged illegal actions invalidated two initiatives that, whether or not you support the measures, deserved to have their day at the polls.
That's the North Dakota way of doing things.