Sinner v. Jaeger


At a Glance

CLC is challenging North Dakota’s onerous requirements to get North Dakota Voters First’s (NDVF) proposed constitutional amendment before voters. NDVF, CLC’s client, is seeking to implement impartial legislative redistricting and instant runoff voting in North Dakota.

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About this Case

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is representing NDVF, a grassroots coalition of conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between working to make elections in North Dakota serve all North Dakotans. CLC is also representing lead plaintiff Elizabeth Jane Sinner and Lois Altenburg who want to sign NDVF’s petition to get the proposed amendment on the ballot. CLC also represents Whitney Oxendahl, who wants to serve as a circulator of the petition, and Carol Sawicki, who wants to serve as a circulator of the petition and recruit others to do the same.

On May 6, 2020, CLC filed a lawsuit on behalf of the plaintiffs against North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger to seek several protections for voters who wish to have their voice heard in the democratic process while also protecting their health. The suit asks the court to waive, for this petition, the requirement that each signatory sign the petition in the presence of the circulator, that each circulator sign an affidavit in the presence of a Notary Public swearing that each signatory signed the petition in the presence of the circulator, that the petition remain in the physical possession of the circulator at all times, and that the signature be a “wet” signature rather than an electronic one. In light of the global pandemic, these requirements make it nearly impossible for CLC’s clients to access the ballot and organize in support of the proposed amendment. This violates the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of North Dakota voters.

Because the proposed amendment impacts the redistricting process that follows the census, it is pivotal that CLC’s clients get it on the ballot in the 2020 election cycle. If they cannot, the next opportunity to seek fair maps will come after a new state legislative map is already drawn, effectively delaying redistricting reform until after the 2030 census. 

Additionally, the amendment institutes instant runoff voting which allows voters to pick their first-choice candidate as usual, but to also mark their second, third, and fourth choice candidates if they choose to. Then, if no candidate has a majority outright, election officials use these rankings to run an instant runoff process that results in a majority winner. The amendment also establishes an open primary, requires that ballots be transmitted to qualified military-overseas electors by the sixty-first day before an election, and requires that all voting machines produce a paper record of each vote cast and requires a ransom audit of election results.

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District Court


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