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Published February 12, 2012, 07:51 PM

State Board of Higher Education Could Work to Stop Fighting Sioux Ballot Vote

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education will likely seek a court ruling to declare the Fighting Sioux nickname law unconstitutional. The board will meet with the State Attorney General Monday to discuss options.

The North Dakota State Board of Higher Education will likely seek a court ruling to declare the Fighting Sioux nickname law unconstitutional. The board will meet with the State Attorney General Monday to discuss options.

"If the board decides to take some action at the advice of the attorney general, you might find that this process is again suspended," President of the State Board of Higher Education Grant Shaft said.

The University of North Dakota began the process of reinstating the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo last week, after learning supporters turned in enough petition signatures to put the law to a vote in June.

"You know, most folks reading of that constitutional provision would make it clear that this is something that is clearly under the authority of the State Board of Higher Education," Shaft said.

"They must understand at the Board of Higher Education that we did our homework and we believe the original law is constitutional. Because it says there are three co-equal branches of government and there is not four. The Board of Higher Ed isn't the fourth one," North Dakota House Majority Leader Al Carlson said.

But when the board meets with State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem Monday, Shaft expects a different outcome.

"We'd seek some declaratory statement from the court, and likely the Supreme Court, that the law that was passed by the legislature last April is not constitutional," Shaft said.

If that nickname law authored by Carlson is found unconstitutional, Shaft says that means one thing.

"The ultimate effect is that this issue wouldn't be on the ballot in June," Shaft said.

"And it takes four of the five Supreme Court Justices to prove that it's not. They might not like what happened or why the petitions are signed, but the point is the law is constitutional, in my opinion," Carlson said.

Shaft says he anticipates the State Board of Higher Education will seek injunctive relief from the court while the law is reviewed. That would mean UND could not use the nickname until the state Supreme Court rules.

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