Resource: Sinner v. Jaeger

By: The Stanford-MIT Healthy Elections Project

September 1, 2020

Suit challenged North Dakota constitutional and statutory provisions governing the signature process to place a constitutional amendment on the November 3, 2020 ballot that would create a nonpartisan legislative redistricting process. These provisions require persons to sign a petition in the presence of the individual circulating it and they do not permit electronic signatures. Plaintiffs are the 501(c)(4) organization sponsoring the amendment and 4 individuals. The complaint sought declaratory judgment that the challenged provisions violate 1st Amendment rights under the circumstances presented by Covid-19. The Governor had declared a Covid state of emergency on March 13 and implemented certain restrictions, but no stay-at-home order was issued and nearly all restrictions were revoked on May 1. The petition was approved for circulation beginning April 30; the complaint was filed on May 6 followed by a motion for preliminary injunction on May 7; and some in-person signature collection began May 26 using precautions such as masks and gloves. Two of the individual plaintiffs stated they declined to help gather signatures due to health risks, and two said they wanted to sign the petition but decided not to for the same reason. The defendant is the Secretary of State.