Special Statewide Election | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Special Statewide Election

Sep 20, 2019

On this date in 1933, citizens of North Dakota were prepping for a special statewide election.

The vote was on seven measures – two minor amendments to the constitution; three referred measures that involved insolvent banks, state sales tax, and a law providing for the removal of commissioners of the workman’s compensation bureau. There was also an initiated measure about the manufacture, sale, and distribution of beer; and another that would permit the operation of moving picture theaters on Sundays.

For citizens looking forward to the results of the election, the Bismarck Tribune planned to hold an election party at their office for anyone who wanted to keep up. It was a good place for such an event, since the Tribune had representatives canvassing votes for Bismarck, Burleigh County, and for six neighboring counties. They also planned to receive results from other counties by wire.

The polls closed at 7pm, and with "only a short ballot to count," results were expected to start rolling in within the hour, with more distant reports coming in between 9:30 and 10 that evening.

The Tribune printed notice of this party in the paper, saying: "In line with its policy of giving its readers the best possible service, The Tribune will hold an election party... so that all interested in the returns may get them hot off the wire. Everyone is invited to attend.”  

The paper even noted that "a megaphone man will announce the returns from a window of The Tribune office as they are received from Burleigh county and other parts of the state.”

In the end, the legalized beer measure swept in by a landslide; the Sunday movies bill squeaked by; and the two constitutional amendments were a success. However, the three referred measures, the sales tax, the change for the workmen’s compensation bureau, and the measure regarding banks all failed.

Of course, these were also measures that then-Governor William Langer was campaigning for. The Tribune noted that those measures had been passed by the legislature [quote] “at the demand and insistence of the governor and the vote proved clearly the popular distrust of that Langer-controlled body, many members of which now are on the state payroll.” [unquote] The Tribune observed that “farmers and city folk joined” together in the special election to reject Langer’s leadership. Langer would be removed from office the following year.

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune, September 20, 1933, p3

The Bismarck Tribune, September 21, 1933, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, September 22, 1933, p1

The Bismarck Tribune, September 23, 1933, p1

https://www.history.nd.gov/exhibits/governors/governors17.html