Fighting Sioux ballot language changed after error

By Dale Wetzel
Bismarck, North Dakota (AP) April 2012

You say you want the University of North Dakota to keep the Fighting Sioux nickname? Be sure to vote “No.”

State officials warned of possible confusion over language in June’s referendum over the contentious moniker.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem had previously settled on ballot language for the Fighting Sioux referendum that specified a “Yes” vote required UND to keep the name and a “No” vote meant the name, which the NCAA considers offensive, could be retired.

However, Stenehjem said the original referendum language was backward, because North Dakotans will be voting on a double negative – whether to repeal the North Dakota Legislature’s decision to repeal a law that requires UND to keep the nickname.

Therefore, a “Yes” vote supports the Legislature’s decision to repeal the pro-nickname law, which would allow the university to retire the nickname, the attorney general said.

A “No” vote opposes the Legislature’s repeal of the Fighting Sioux law. Should “No” voters prevail, UND would be required to keep using the nickname and a logo showing an American Indian warrior’s profile.

“We’re dealing with a rejection of a repeal of a previous law, and so it gets a little convoluted,” Stenehjem said.

The latest version of the approved ballot should make it clear what a vote means, Stenehjem said.

The question will be listed as Measure 4 on the June 12 ballot. It will have “Yes” and “No” ovals that voters will fill in.

By the “Yes” oval will be this statement: “Yes means you approve Senate Bill 2370, the effect of which would allow the University of North Dakota to discontinue the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.”

Next to the “No” oval will read: “No means you reject Senate Bill 2370, and would require the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.”

The North Dakota Constitution requires that a referendum allow voters to repeal a law approved by the Legislature, Stenehjem said.