State ex rel. Wefald v. Meier, 10679

Decision Date23 April 1984
Docket NumberNo. 10679,10679
Citation347 N.W.2d 562
PartiesSTATE of North Dakota, ex rel., Robert O. WEFALD, Attorney General, Petitioner, v. Ben MEIER, Secretary of State, Respondent and Cross-Petitioner. Civ.
CourtNorth Dakota Supreme Court

Robert O. Wefald, Atty. Gen. [argued], and Terry L. Adkins, Asst. Atty. Gen., Bismarck, for petitioner.

Dale W. Moench, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Bismarck, for respondent and cross-petitioner.

Senator Herschel Lashkowitz, Fargo, appeared as a member of the Sponsoring Committee.

GIERKE, Justice.

This is an original proceeding to review the proposed statement prepared by the Secretary of State regarding the substance of Referred Measure No. 3 and the effect of an affirmative or negative vote on that measure. This measure is to be included on the June 12, 1984, primary ballot. The facts are stipulated.

The 48th Session of the Legislative Assembly of the State of North Dakota passed House Bill No. 1500. It was signed by the Governor and filed with the Secretary of State on April 19, 1983. House Bill No. 1500, codified as Chapter 191 of the 1983 North Dakota Session Laws, provides that the name of Minot State College be changed to "Dakota Northwestern University--Minot". Petitions to refer House Bill No. 1500 to the people were approved as to form by the Secretary of State on May 23, 1983. In Haugland v. Meier, 335 N.W.2d 809 (N.D.1983) "[Haugland I]", this court set aside the Secretary of State's approval as to form because the petitions contained an impermissible statement of intent.

Subsequent referral petitions were prepared and were approved as to form by the Secretary of State on July 5, 1983. This court was then requested, but refused, to set aside the Secretary of State's approval as to form of the second set of petitions. Haugland v. Meier, 339 N.W.2d 100 (N.D.1983) "[Haugland II]". Thereafter, the Secretary of State prepared to place the referral of House Bill No. 1500 on the June 1984 primary election ballot.

Section 16.1-06-09 of the North Dakota Century Code provides that the Secretary of State shall draft, and the Attorney General shall approve, explanatory statements which must appear on the ballot as to the substance of the referred measure and as to the effect of an affirmative or negative vote on the measure. The statement prepared by the Secretary of State appears as follows:

"Referred Statutes (Measures)

No. 3

The statute referred provides for a change in the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

Ballot Title:

As enacted by the 1983 Legislative Assembly, this referred measure provides for a change in the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

A 'yes' vote means you approve the statutory law providing for a change in the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

A 'no' vote means you reject the statutory law providing for a change in the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

Shall said referred measure be approved:

Yes ____

No ____"

This proposed statement was submitted to the Attorney General for his approval pursuant to Sec. 16.1-06-09, N.D.C.C. The Attorney General concluded that the statement was contrary to law and rejected it. He further suggested that the following statement appear on the ballot in place of that proposed by the Secretary of State "Referred Measure

No. 3

The measure referred amended three sections of the North Dakota Century Code to change the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

Ballot Title

As enacted by the 1983 Legislative Assembly, this referred measure amended three sections of the North Dakota Century Code to change the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

A 'yes' vote means you wish to repeal this measure which changed the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

A 'No' vote means you do not wish to repeal this measure which changed the name of Minot State College to Dakota Northwestern University.

Shall said referred measure be repealed?

Yes ____

No ____"

The Attorney General petitioned this court for the issuance of an appropriate writ declaring that his proposed ballot statement is in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the State of North Dakota. The Secretary of State then filed a response and cross-application asking this court to deny the Attorney General's petition and requesting that this court issue an appropriate writ holding that the statement and proposed ballot of the Secretary of State is correct under the Constitution and the laws of the State.

Before turning to the merits of this controversy, we must first determine whether or not this court has jurisdiction to determine the issue.

Article VI, Section 2, of the North Dakota Constitution, gives this court authority to exercise original jurisdiction and to issue remedial writs as may be necessary to properly exercise the court's jurisdiction. The power vested in this court to issue original writs is a discretionary power which may not be invoked as a matter of right, and this court will determine for itself whether or not a particular case is within its original jurisdiction. State ex rel. Peterson v. Olson, 307 N.W.2d 528 (N.D.1981). It is well settled that the power of this court to issue writs in the exercise of its original jurisdiction extends only to those cases in which the question presented is publici juris, wherein the sovereignty of the State, the franchises or prerogatives of the State, or the liberties of its people are affected. State ex rel. Link v. Olson, 286 N.W.2d 262 (N.D.1979). To warrant the exercise of this court's original jurisdiction, the interests of the State must be primary, not incidental, and the public, the community at large, must have an interest or right which may be affected, State ex rel. Vogel v. Garaas, 261 N.W.2d 914, 916 (N.D.1978).

In this case, the Secretary of State, pursuant to his authority under Sec. 16.1-06-09, N.D.C.C., in preparing the printed ballot for a referred measure, placed thereon a statement representing, in his opinion, the substance of the referred measure. The Attorney General, operating pursuant to his authority under that same statutory provision, has refused to approve the Secretary of State's ballot statement. Involved here is the process of referendum whereby the people, through the exercise of their right to vote, determine the laws under which they will be governed. Few matters encompass more public interest than this process which reserves unto the people the power to govern themselves. See Dawson v. Tobin, 74 N.D. 713, 24 N.W.2d 737 (1946). This dispute encompasses an important and fundamental step in the referendum process. We conclude, therefore, that this is a matter of public interest which warrants our exercise of original jurisdiction.

The Attorney General's application may have implied but did not allege that the Secretary of State had taken a position adverse to that of the Attorney General. However, with the Secretary's filing of a cross-application challenging the Attorney General's revised statement, this court was presented with a justiciable issue sufficient to warrant the exercise of our jurisdiction.

Section 16.1-06-09, N.D.C.C., provides in relevant part:

"16.1-06-09. Constitutional amendments and initiated and referred measures--Placed on separate ballot--Manner of stating question--Explanation of effect of vote--Order of listing.... Immediately preceding the ballot title of the initiated or referred measure on the printed ballot, the secretary of state shall cause to be printed a short, concise statement in boldface type, which statement shall fairly represent the substance of the initiated or referred measure. The attorney general shall approve all such statements written by the secretary of state. Immediately subsequent to the foregoing statement, the secretary of state shall cause to be printed another short, concise statement of the effect of an affirmative or negative vote on the constitutional amendment or measure, initiated...

To continue reading

Request your trial
5 cases
  • State ex rel. Lesmeister v. Olson, 10719
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • August 16, 1984
    ...this case. We have recently stated the principles which govern our authority to exercise original jurisdiction in State ex rel. Wefald v. Meier, 347 N.W.2d 562, 564 (N.D.1984): "Article VI, Section 2, of the North Dakota Constitution, gives this court authority to exercise original jurisdic......
  • N.D. State Bd. of Higher Educ. v. Jaeger
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • April 3, 2012
    ...v. Jaeger, 2002 ND 53, ¶ 2, 641 N.W.2d 100;State ex rel. Kusler v. Sinner, 491 N.W.2d 382, 384 (N.D.1992); State ex rel. Wefald v. Meier, 347 N.W.2d 562, 564 (N.D.1984). Under that constitutional provision, we determine in the first instance whether or not a proceeding is within our origina......
  • Kelsh v. Jaeger
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • March 28, 2002
    ...not incidental, and the public—the community at large—must have an interest or right that may be affected. State ex rel. Wefald v. Meier, 347 N.W.2d 562, 564 (N.D.1984). [¶ 3] The issues in this case involve the people's right to elect representatives to the state Legislature and the Legisl......
  • State ex rel. Kusler v. Sinner
    • United States
    • North Dakota Supreme Court
    • September 26, 1992
    ...important questions about the voting process, we have exercised our original jurisdiction. For one example, see State ex rel. Wefald v. Meier, 347 N.W.2d 562 (N.D.1984) [referendum process]. This case involves similar special circumstances, presenting questions of an urgent and emergency na......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT