Asinine constitutional proposal on the ballot

From Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

1. Asinine: relating to or resembling an ass; 2. marked by inexcusable failure to exercise intelligence or sound judgment.

Yes, that’s the word that should be used to describe the proposed constitutional amendment that would ensure only United States citizens could vote in North Dakota.

Of course, the North Dakota constitution already provides that only U. S. citizens can vote but the sponsors allege that the language in the constitution is ambiguous and needs clarity. Let’s check.

“Every citizen of the United States, who has attained the age of eighteen years and who is a North Dakota resident, shall be a qualified elector.”

Frankly, I don’t see the ambiguity in this very short statement. Neither do I see a need for clarity. On the surface, it looks asinine all right.

State constitutions have four functions: structure the government, provide bill of rights, allocate power and limit the legislature. The proposed amendment does none of these.

The only function that comes close is “limit the legislature” from ever legalizing voting by noncitizens. Stop and exercise some intelligence. There hasn’t been a single North Dakota legislator in recent history who has proposed extending the right to vote to noncitizens.

So what’s the purpose of this proposal? Is there an army of aliens sitting on our borders, ready to take over the state when they get the right to vote? (Don’t answer. That’s rhetorical.)

If we need to protect ourselves from noncitizen voting, I can think of other proposals that would be of equal importance:

White Butte shall always be located in Slope County.

North Dakota shall never declare war on the United States.

Growing wheat shall always be legal in North Dakota.

The authors of this new proposal have no confidence in the common sense of the citizenry. In this case, they believe that the legislature, and its constituents, may pass legislation allowing aliens to vote. We have had other ballot proposals that begged the question.

Just a few years ago, the gun rights people saw boogeymen behind every bush and proposed a constitutional measure reaffirming Second Amendment rights. They forgot that they were in North Dakota where the gun is as sacred as the Bible.

Before that, the sheriffs placed a constitutional measure on the ballot declaring that there shall forever be one sheriff in every county. We have had “shire-reeves” since the Middle Ages – over 1000 years- and suddenly we think the office is going to be extinct.

Sponsors of this new proposal admit that it took $250,000 from an out-of-state organization to gather the signatures needed to get a ballot position. You can bet that the sponsors will be back to that well to get more money for the general election. We will be sold a bill of goods that has no functional value to a constitution.

Because there is no practical value to this proposal, it must be carrying a message that only a few can hear.

If it has no practical value to North Dakota, what are out-of-state promoters looking for? Or is it just an “inexcusable failure to exercise intelligence or sound judgment?”

(The social media is being exploited by many who present themselves as experts. When it comes to state constitutions, I consider myself close. I taught a section on state constitutions over 40 times at UND; wrote a chapter on state constitutions for a national textbook, State and Local Government in America, requiring a study of all state constitutions, and served in the second constitutional convention.)

Lloyd Omdahl is a former lieutenant governor of North Dakota and former political science professor at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks.