Voters Reject New Constitution by Overwhelming Margin

Bismarck, N.D.
April 14, 1972

In 1889 the constitutional convention drew up a document that was six times as long as the federal constitution because the convention met at a time of great mistrust of public officials. Territorial governors and many legislators had been accused of corruption and being controlled by powerful corporate interests. Judge Thomas Cooley warned delegates to the 1889 convention not to include in the constitution what should be left to the legislature. Delegates paid no attention to the advice and placed a great deal of legislation in the Constitution. Distrustful of political power, the convention created a weak governor who was surrounded by officials who were elected and not directly responsible to that office.

Representative Rolland Redlin, Senator Quentin Burdick, and Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts.  Feichert photo, courtesy of State Historical Society of North Dakota (C1690-01).

Because the 1889 Constitution has been amended 95 times, the legislature believed it was time for change. The people, however, have repeatedly turned down legislative proposals to streamline the 1889 Constitution. That is why the legislature has asked North Dakotans to draft a new constitution. Two years ago, by a vote of 56,784 to 40,094, the people supported a new Constitutional Convention and elected 98 delegates. Last January 3 the convention opened and committees held public hearings so that the people could express their views on proposed changes.

The new constitution strengthened the governorship by allowing the appointment of some state officials who had previously been elected. Among many other changes, the new constitution contained a “right to work” provision which allowed a person the right to join or not to join a union. The delegates approved the new constitution. 91 to 4, on February 17.

During the last two months, heated debate over the merits of the new constitution has taken place in all corners of the state. And, today the voters have spoken. By an overwhelming majority, 107,643 to 64,073, voters have rejected the new constitution, preferring a more cautious, piecemeal approach to change.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Grade Level

3-4, 7-8

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change