A tight U.S. Senate race in North Dakota between Rick Berg and Heidi Heitkamp has some people talking about a possible recount. There is also talk a recount would create nightmares based on North Dakota’s election rules and the fact it is the only state without voter registration. North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger finds this kind of talk irritating. “We’ve done recounts in the past. We know how to do them. If we have a recount, we are prepared,” said Jaeger, who expects strong scrutiny from political parties and their attorneys if a recount is necessary. And he knows what he will tell them: Look, here’s the law, here’s what we’re going to do and this is the plan we’re going to follow.
Jaeger acknowledged a “theoretical” weakness in the way North Dakota handles voting, but he said it has never been a problem in the way voting actually takes place. At issue is what happens when someone shows up to vote.
If people can produce identification that shows they are 18 and a resident of the precinct, they are given a ballot and allowed to vote.
If they don’t have adequate documentation, they can still vote if an election official can vouch for them, or if the voter signs an affidavit attesting to their eligibility.
Officials double-check the validity of affidavits by sending postcards to the voter’s claimed address. If they hear from someone at that address saying they didn’t vote, officials know there was a problem. Voters could face a Class A misdemeanor charge if they signed an affidavit knowing the information on it wasn’t true.
By that stage of the game, however, there is no way under North Dakota law to reject the ballot because they’re mixed in with the rest of the ballots. While Jaeger acknowledged that poses a potential problem, he said in decades of voting in North Dakota it has not been an issue.