Voters in North Dakota’s primary on Tuesday will face a handful of interesting political questions, ranging from what has been called a "war on religion," to the possible end of a critical state taxing structure, to a social question concerning sports.
One ballot measure reignites the Obama birth control battle from earlier this year, which saw Catholics up in arms over forced mandates which they claimed infringed on their rights.
Voters will also decide on a constitutional amendment would effectively seek the end to property taxes in the state ... forcing state government to figure out how they would fill a massive revenue hole if the amendment were passed.
Finally, does the University of North Dakota mascot, the Fighting Sioux, embody racism? Voters must also decide this critical question. Below are explanations of the socio-political battles in Tuesday's North Dakota primary.
PolicyMic will be covering the North Dakota primaries live. Bookmark this page and click “refresh” for the latest updates.
LIVE UPDATES: 11:36 p.m. 73% of the votes have been counted. North Dakota has voted to abolish the use of the Fighting Sioux, keep property tax, and it appears that they will also vote to allow government policy to transcend religion. The vote on that measure currently stands at 35% yes, and 64% no.
11:31 p.m. Currently 69.95% of precincts are reporting. Measure 3 has 64.58% voting no and 35.42% voting yes.
11:19 p.m. Interesting tid-bit.
11:11 p.m. North Dakota residents vote to let university scrap Fighting Sioux nickname.
11:03 p.m. 60% of precincts are currently reporting results. For referendum Measures 3 and 4: measure 3, 64% are voting to allow government to over rule religious policy. With respect to measure 4, 67% are voting to retire the nickname the Fighting Sioux.
10:50 p.m. In the Republican senate race, Rick Berg emerges the nominee ahead of Duane Sand. With 43% reporting, Berg leads Sand 66.6% to 33.3%.
10:34 p.m. The Associated Press has called the vote on Measure 2; the property tax referendum. Voters reject proposal to abolish property tax.
10:31 p.m. 30.5% of precincts are now reporting, 65% are voting to retire Fighting Soux while 35% are voting to keep it. In the other referendums, 21% are voting to eliminate property tax while 78% are voting to keep it; 38% are voting to keep government out of religious affairs while 61% says government policy can override religion.
10:07 p.m. With 11.74% of precincts reporting, 63.76% are voting to reitre the Fighting Sioux logo and name; 36.24% are voting to keep it.
9:42 p.m. 6 of 426 precincts are reporting. In the Fighting Sioux vote, 60.10% are currently voting to drop the name and logo while 39.9% are voting to use it. In the property tax referendum 82.38% are currently voting to keep property tax.
9:08 p.m. With regards to the referendum on property tax, current results show that 81.74% of voters are voting to keep property tax, while 18.26% are voting to abolish it.
9:01 p.m. Early North Dakota results are coming in. With 3 of 426 precincts reporting, current stats for the use of the Fighting Sioux name and logo show that 59.1% want to discontinue its use while 40.9% would like to continue it.
8:39 p.m. Many North Dakota polls closed at 7 p.m. local time though by law they are permitted to stay open until 9 p.m. Secretary of State Al Jaeger says he is hoping for a turnout of at least 140,000 voters.
8:12 p.m. Below is the Fighting Sioux logo, a referendum on the use of the logo is being voted on in tonight's election.
5 p.m. According to the Associated Press, some polling sites are seeing strong turnouts as voting gets under way in North Dakota's primary election.
The Forum reports early turnout is brisk in Fargo, the state's largest city. In the capital of Bismarck, poll site inspector Margaret Swenson says she hasn't seen so large an early turnout outside of a presidential election. She says 120 voters showed up in the first two hours. She says the four ballot measures are drawing voters.
The measures include contentious proposals to retire the University of North Dakota's Fighting Sioux nickname, abolish property taxes and make it tougher for the state to regulate religious practices.
There also are Republican primary races for U.S. House and Senate, and three people are vying for two November ballot spots to run for state school superintendent.
Should the University of North Dakota should save or scrap its Fighting Sioux nickname?
The question has some serious racial and social ramifications tied to it. The issue has been simmering on the campus for decades but boiled over seven years ago when UND was placed on a list of schools with American Indian nicknames the NCAA deemed hostile and abusive.
Those colleges were told to dump the names or risk sanctions against their athletic teams.
Can government impose policies which are counter to religious beliefs?
Though the UND sports amendment is taking headlines, it’s Ballot Measure 3 which is turning heads. Called the Religious Liberty Restoration amendment, the measure would add a clause to the state constitution stipulating that the government must have a “compelling interest” in order to “burden” a person whose actions or decisions are informed by religious belief and that the government should use the “least restrictive means to further that interest.”
What does that mean, exactly? The ballot is a sort-of extension of the Obama birth control mandate/ religion fight that erupted earlier this year. The question focuses on whether or not government can mandate actions if they are counter to a person’s religious beliefs. Opponents (mainly of the liberal persuasion) have called the measure an attempt to codify workplace discrimination on the basis of religion.
Some outlets are referring to the ballot battle as a “war on religion.”
Should citizens have to pay property tax?
Another anti-big government amendment is being considered: the elimination of the state property tax. Some North Dakotans have pressed for an amendment to the state constitution to end the property tax. They argue that the tax is unpredictable, inconsistent, and counter to the concept of property ownership.
The North Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the state’s largest public employees’ unions vehemently oppose the idea, arguing that such a ban would upend the structure of government funding.
According to the New York Times, opponents of the bill argue how, precisely, lawmakers would make up $812 million in annual property tax revenue; what effect the change would have on hundreds of other state laws and regulations that allude to the more than century-old property tax; and what decisions would be left for North Dakota’s cities, counties and other governing boards if, say, they wanted to build a new school, hire more police, open a new park, etc.
The very concept of state government funding would be turned on its head.
Strong turnout is expected in the primary.
Sports Mascots and Politics: A team mascot’s job is to encourage and bring fans together, right? So why are some mascots deemed “hostile and abusive” by the NCAA? PolicyMic Pundit JoEllen Redlinshafer explains:
Most sports fans know their mascot and are just as enthusiastic about it as they are about the actual team. Whether the mascot is a little Irish man with fists held high or an angry ram, it is a vital part of a sports team. Mascot and team names that are disrespectful to specific groups of people should be changed in order to create a sense of community.
Bedford Road Collegiate high school in Saskatoon, Canada, is under fire for their sports team name, the “Redmen," and the mascot, a Native American warrior. The group hoping for change argues that the name and mascot are derogatory towards people of Native American descent.
Opponents of the change argue that the name and mascot are part of the team's tradition. Others have turned to Facebook with crude comments and threats of violence.
“This logo and name, like thousands other akin to it, does not come from indigenous people or their culture; it was created by a dominant Canadian culture that legally defined the First Nations people less than human,” said Sheelah McLean to Planet S Magazine, teacher at a Saskatoon public school.
In 2010, Ole Miss announced a new mascot: the Rebel Black Bear. The former mascot, Colonel Reb, a white haired, cane-holding old man, was criticized for being inappropriate because he appeared to be a Civil War-era plantation owner.
According to the New York Times, school administrators said they were trying to balance tolerance with tradition. Administrators are discouraging Confederate flags and singing of the unofficial fight song “Dixie” at sporting events.
Native American groups themselves also are working to banish team names like the Washington Redskins, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Atlanta Braves.
In 2009, the Washington Redskins won a 17-year battle against a group of Native Americans who argued that their team name was racially offensive. The decision was not made based on the accusations, but on the legal technicality that those pressing charges waited too long to do so. Those who pressed charges did so decades after the Redskins trademarked the name, making the youngest plaintiff a 1-year-old at the time. The judge noted that this plaintiff waited eight years after he turned 18 to press charges.
However, this setback has not stopped Native American activist groups, who are lobbying all over the country, against high schools and national teams alike.
Americans would riot over a sports team named “the Asians” or “the Jews” or a mascot called "the Mexican" depicted by a Hispanic person wearing a sombrero. Why is it that we see these as inappropriate but not the use of Native Americans as team names and mascots? People need not forget that the Native Americans are a race, not a fictional group. Tradition should not be a good enough reason to keep these mascots. If a tradition is racist and disrespectful, it should not be longstanding. Americans have allowed these derogatory names for long enough, and it is time to give up the tradition and do the right thing.
“This is a human rights issue, we are being denied the most basic respect,” said Michael Haney, a Seminole American, to the Oregon State Education Department. “As long as our people are perceived as cartoon characters or static beings locked in the past, our socioeconomic problems will never be addressed. Also, this issue of imagery has a direct correlation with violence against Indian people and the high suicide rate of our youth.”