BISMARCK, N.D. — Backers of a measure to change the North Dakota Constitution to explicitly bar non-U.S. citizens from voting say they have gathered enough signatures to get it on the November ballot.
Gary Emineth, a Republican state Senate candidate in Bismarck, submitted more than 35,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office on Friday for review. "Hundreds" of people were paid to gather the signatures, he said.
North Dakota's constitution already defines a voter as a U.S. citizen. But Emineth said the wording is "ambiguous" and another section is proposed for clarity and to "embed" it in the state constitution.
The measure would change the North Dakota Constitution to state that "only a citizen" of the United States is a qualified voter in federal, state and local elections. The current language says "every citizen" of the United States is a qualified elector. It does not specify an election.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says some states allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, but no state allows noncitizen voting in statewide elections.
Emineth, a businessman and former North Dakota Republican Party chairman, said the measure would make clear that a noncitizen could not vote in any North Dakota election. North Dakota would be the first state to alter its constitution to explicitly bar non-U.S. citizens from voting in any election, he said.
The Legislature would have to work hard to get the needed two-thirds majority to amend the measure if it passes, Emineth said.
To put the measure on the November ballot, the amendment's supporters needed almost 27,000 signatures from North Dakota voters, which equals 4 percent of the population.
Emineth said the Virginia-based Liberty Initiative Fund gave $210,000 toward the signature-gathering effort. Emineth said he also personally contributed $43,000.