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Posted 10/31/12 (Wed)

By  Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When North Dakota voters head to the election polls next Tuesday to cast their ballots for whom they would like to serve them as President of the United States for the next four years, as well as who will serve them in the U.S. Senate and assorted state offices, the electorate will also be asked to decide the fate of five changes to the state’s Constitution.
Three of the measures are Constitutional amendments, while two are Statutory changes.
As I have done in the past, I’m going to go through the measures and end up saying how I intend to vote. Please be aware, these are just my thoughts and observations. And as voters, you need to do some reading on the issues yourself and then cast your vote in the manner in which you believe is right for you.
Measure No. 1 - Eliminates State’s Poll Tax
Measure No. 1 is really a “no-brainer.” The measure has been referred to the voters by the state Legislature and is basic housekeeping that removes language from the state’s Constitution that says an annual poll tax of not more than $1.50 can be assessed to every male inhabitant over 21 and under the age of 50, except for paupers, idiots, insane people and Indians.
There isn’t a lot more that needs to be said, I’m voting “yes” to remove the archaic law.
Measure No. 2 - Requires The Executive Branch of State
Government To Take An Oath of Office
Again, Measure No. 2 is on the ballot because of action by the state Legislature.
Currently, the state’s Constitution requires that members of the North Dakota Legislative and judicial branches are required by the Constitution to take an oath of office. But for whatever reason, the state’s Constitution does not require the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to take an oath of office.
Why the language wasn’t incorporated into the state’s original Constitution is a good question. There is nothing wrong with now making the requirement part of the Constitution.
I’m voting “yes.”
Measure No. 3 - Provides Language to the State’s Constitution Guaranteeing Forever The Right Of Farmers and Ranchers To Engage In Modern Farming And Ranching Practices
Measure No. 3, which is being backed by the North Dakota Farm Bureau, has me confused. And to be honest, I don’t understand what the measure is trying to protect other than allowing farmers and ranchers to use genetically modified seed or feed.
Given that the federal government seems to be continually trying to extend its reach and control over what farmers and ranchers can and can’t do, it is my guess that this measure is simply an attempt to provide a barrier to future federal government regulations.
At any rate, I don’t see the problem with a “yes” vote and that is how I will be marking my ballot.
Measure No. 4 - Prohibiting Smoking In All Public Places
At long last, North Dakota voters will finally have their say on whether or not smoking should be allowed in public buildings. Smoking indoors has already been banned in most states and in many North Dakota communities.
So far the state Legislature has been reluctant to tackle the issue of banning smoking in all public buildings, so this initiated measure is finally going to let the people decide.
Personally, I think banning smoking in all public facilities deserves a “yes” vote. Granted, choosing to smoke is a personal choice, but that personal choice should not override the rights of the “non-smokers.”
I’m voting “yes” on Measure No. 4.
Measure No. 5 - Makes It A Class C Felony To Maliciously And Intentionally Harm A Living Dog, Cat Or Horse
Measure No. 5 is being brought to the voters of North Dakota through the efforts of animal rights people who want to strengthen the state’s laws on animal cruelty.
Nobody likes to hear or read about defenseless animals (especially dogs, cats and horses) that have been subjected to abuse and cruelty. But the question that needs to be asked of voters is, “does North Dakota need to have a Constitutional amendment on its books that makes such a crime a Class C Felony?”
One has to wonder if the proponents of this measure wouldn’t have been better served if they had taken their case to the state Legislature. Their decision to go straight to the people, as well as the measure’s opposition by many of the state’s veterinarians is enough to make me pause and to wonder if there isn’t something else going on here.
I’m voting “no” on Measure No. 5. And if the majority of the voters  also give this measure a “thumbs down,” I hope the issue comes up in January at the state Legislature.