The fighting over close national elections can be vicious. We saw that last year in the heated battle between Joe Biden and Donald Trump where many of the latter’s supporters made claims of vote fraud. But it’s not a recent phenomenon. Turn back the clock and you find Democrats in the George W. Bush-era hatching conspiracy theories about Diebold voting machines.Given the reality of that sort of turbulence, does it make any sense to make the election process less transparent? Less open to public scrutiny?A bill before the Legislature in Bismarck would do just that. Senate Bill 2271, introduced by Sen. Robert Erbele, a Republican from Lehr, would hide the vote counts for North Dakota’s presidential elections from the public. State officials would still be allowed to release percentage figures representing the share of the vote each candidate got, but the actual vote numbers would be a secret until after the Electoral College votes from each state are cast. Surprised you haven’t heard of this bill? Don’t be. It hasn’t gotten much attention, despite having sailed through the Senate already on a lopsided 43-3 vote. It’s “almost a politburo situation from Soviet Russia,” Saul Anuzis said on this episode of Plain Talk. Anuzis is a long-time Republican leader – he led the Michigan GOP for years and was twice a candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee – and of late is a proponent of an interstate compact promoting the national popular vote. He says Erbele’s bill is being pushed by a lobbyist opposed to the national popular vote, the idea being that North Dakota can’t participate in any national popular vote proposals if we don’t report our popular vote totals.
North Dakota activists race to turn out Indigenous vote despite mail-in ballot challenges | Adam Willis/The Dickinson Press
Sisters Joletta and Theodora Bird Bear live across from one another on a remote stretch of western North Dakota highway roughly 9 miles east of Mandaree, a town of about 600 people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Their homes are just past a cluster of four roadside oil wells and before the recently paved intersection on the other side of the hill. “Don’t look at Google,” says Joletta when offering directions to her home. “You’ll end up somewhere 30 miles away.” Joletta and Theodora, Mandan Hidatsa members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, have spent most of their lives on rural Fort Berthold without street addresses that allow for easy mail delivery, nor mailboxes at the end of their long driveways. To pick up her mail, Joletta drives to the Mandaree post office, where for more than 20 years her mother worked as the town postmaster. When she retired, Joletta succeeded her. All told, the Bird Bears staffed the Mandaree post office — a place of unique importance on North Dakota’s tribal lands — for more than 40 years. With many homes like the Bird Bears’ lacking easily accessible addresses or regular route postal delivery, the post office provides a critical communication line and medical supply delivery to largely rural areas with below-average internet access and spotty cellphone coverage. For activist Nicole Donaghy, a Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and director at North Dakota Native Vote, an Indigenous voting rights group, the post office is “one of the very few lifelines that goes into a reservation.” It acts as a center of gravity for its region, a bedrock for community and a link to the country surrounding sovereign nations.Sisters Joletta and Theodora Bird Bear live across from one another on a remote stretch of western North Dakota highway roughly 9 miles east of Mandaree, a town of about 600 people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Their homes are just past a cluster of four roadside oil wells and before the recently paved intersection on the other side of the hill. “Don’t look at Google,” says Joletta when offering directions to her home. “You’ll end up somewhere 30 miles away.” Joletta and Theodora, Mandan Hidatsa members of the Three Affiliated Tribes, have spent most of their lives on rural Fort Berthold without street addresses that allow for easy mail delivery, nor mailboxes at the end of their long driveways. To pick up her mail, Joletta drives to the Mandaree post office, where for more than 20 years her mother worked as the town postmaster. When she retired, Joletta succeeded her. All told, the Bird Bears staffed the Mandaree post office — a place of unique importance on North Dakota’s tribal lands — for more than 40 years. With many homes like the Bird Bears’ lacking easily accessible addresses or regular route postal delivery, the post office provides a critical communication line and medical supply delivery to largely rural areas with below-average internet access and spotty cellphone coverage. For activist Nicole Donaghy, a Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and director at North Dakota Native Vote, an Indigenous voting rights group, the post office is “one of the very few lifelines that goes into a reservation.” It acts as a center of gravity for its region, a bedrock for community and a link to the country surrounding sovereign nations.
North Dakota: After high turnout in pandemic primary, should mail-only voting be North Dakota’s new normal? | Adam Willis/The Dickinson Press
Roughly 158,000 North Dakotans voted in the recent June election, a strong turnout in a historic primary that relied solely on mail-in ballots. Vote-by-mail surged to the fore of national politics this primary season as the coronavirus pandemic had state governments scrambling to restructure their election systems. The outcomes were disastrous in several states, but North Dakota’s move to a completely vote-by-mail election stands out as a relative success. Not only did vote-by-mail reduce the risks for COVID-19 transmission in North Dakota, it also drew some of the highest voter turnout in state history. Among North Dakota primary elections, only 2012 saw higher numbers, with over 175,000 ballots cast. This month’s turnout prompts the question: Should North Dakota join a small group of states that vote exclusively by mail? Nationally, there are several kinds of vote-by-mail systems. Five states, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Hawaii and Colorado, have switched to universal vote-by-mail elections in which the government mails ballots to every registered voter. California recently passed its Voter Choice Act, which gives counties the option to mail ballots to voters while maintaining in-person polls. North Dakota’s mail-in system requires a few more steps. Here, voters must fill out a ballot application to receive their mail-in ballot, and the decision to automatically mail applications to voters is made on a county-by-county level.
North Dakota: Voter participation could hit all-time high among statewide June elections | David Olson/Grand Forks Herald
The Tuesday, June 9 election in North Dakota could historically rank among the top June elections when it comes to voter participation, county and state election officials said Monday. Tuesday’s vote — which is being conducted solely with mail-in ballots — is a primary election for state races and a general election when it comes to things like city and school board races. As of Monday afternoon, about 37,000 ballots had been mailed to Cass County voters and, of those, about 23,000 had been completed and returned to Cass County election officials. That put the voting on pace to surpass the 23,950 ballots cast during a June election in 2006, which stands as a high-water mark for June elections, according to DeAnn Buckhouse, election coordinator for Cass County. It is the first time Cass County has used mail-only voting. To be eligible for counting, Buckhouse said completed ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than June 8.
North Dakota: Judge grants order requiring notice, remedy process for mail-in ballots rejected for signature issues | David Olson/Grand Forks Herald
A federal judge has granted an injunction in a suit that sought protections for mail-in ballots that get rejected for signature issues. The injunction, granted Wednesday, June 3, bars North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger and other election officials from rejecting any mail-in ballot on the basis of a “signature mismatch” without having in place adequate notice and remedy procedures. The order is in place for the primary election set for Tuesday, June 9, and may apply to the general election on Nov. 3. The injunction was requested by the League of Women Voters of North Dakota and other plaintiffs, who argued that the state’s election process does not notify voters when their ballot is rejected due to a technical error such as a signature mismatch and that there is no method for voters to fix such situations.
North Dakota: All eligible voters to receive ballots by mail for June 9 primary | The Dickinson Press
North Dakota voters will be receiving their ballots by mail for the June 9 primary election, state officials announced Thursday, April 23. County commissions in all of the 53 counties have authorized vote by mail for the election as a measure to reduce the public’s risk of exposure to COVID-19, according to a release from the North Dakota Association of Counties. On March 26, Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order encouraging counties to use Vote by Mail for the June 9 election. The executive order suspends the requirement for counties to have at least one physical polling location. In response, every county has decided to administer the primary election by vote by mail only, and reservation counties have been working with tribal governments on the process, the release said. No polling locations will be open for the primary election and all ballots will be issued through the mail.
North Dakota: Secretary of State hopes people participate in June mail-in election | Karassa Stinchcomb/KX News
Because of the coronavirus, this June’s election will be unlike any other in our state’s history. Counties are opting to conduct the election by mail with no physical polling places. “Polling locations will not be open because of the concern of the spread of the virus,” said Secretary of State Al Jaeger. Jaeger said preparations to have a wide-scale mail-in election began in March. 600,000 residents will receive voting applications by the end of this month. If you don’t receive that application form by May 1, contact your auditor as soon as possible. “Any individual who wants to vote in that election, we want to make sure that they have that ballot and are able to mark that ballot and to cast their vote,” said Jaeger.
North Dakota: Counties can hold June election via mail-in ballots only | Andrea Johnson/Minot Daily News
Gov. Doug Burgum issued an executive order Thursday that will enable counties to conduct the June 9 election by mail-in ballot only if they choose to do so. The order eliminates a requirement that counties maintain a physical polling location. Burgum announced at his daily briefing that the order is intended to protect the right of North Dakotans to vote and also to protect polling workers and voters from coronavirus if the pandemic is still a concern come June. Burgum also announced guidance that is intended to shore up child care providers in the state. Child care providers will be required to take extra steps to protect against the spread of the virus, such as making sure that there are no more than 10 people, including both adults and children, in a room at one time and staggering use of common areas to keep too many people from being in an area at once. Providers would also be required to limit access to the facility as much as possible and ask families questions about how they are feeling before a child is able to come into the facility.
North Dakota: New electronic pollbooks set to go out to North Dakota counties | Jack Dura/Bismarck Tribune
raining sessions on new electronic pollbooks are planned throughout the next week and a half for North Dakota election officials. The new devices — 990 of them — will be distributed to North Dakota’s 53 counties for use at polling locations after being delivered to the state in February. Pollbooks are records of voters of a precinct. The devices, which resemble an iPad, will speed up what has been a paper process for most counties in checking voters and add an element of security, according to North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger. “One of the things when it comes to election integrity is that once you come in and show your ID, that automatically goes back into our central voter file and so if you attempted to vote, let’s say, in Minot or drive up to Killdeer or some other place, they would know that you voted already,” Jaeger said Monday. North Dakota has no voter registration, but maintains a central voter file which is essentially a database of who has voted.
Grand Forks County has received most of its new election equipment, which replaces voting machines that are about 15 years old. The Legislature authorized $8.2 million for the new machines to add to the $3 million in federal funds doled out to assist in the purchase. According to County Auditor Debbie Nelson, the equipment arrived two weeks ago and includes 40 new optical scanners, 40 new ExpressVote machines, which are unassisted voting machines, and a new central count machine was received as well. Electronic poll books have yet to arrive. The optical scanners are part of the vote counting process, according to Nelson. m“When people mark their ballot, they bring it over to the scanner to be counted,” she said. The voting machines, which are used to mark ballots, can be used by anyone. However, if any voters have difficulty seeing a ballot, they have the option of having it read to them. The central count machine is a faster ballot counting machine.
Burleigh County has received new election equipment being distributed to North Dakota counties over the next few weeks by state election officials. Auditor/Treasurer Kevin Glatt said the county on Monday received 50 ballot scanners, 50 accessibility devices for voters who may have difficulty marking ballots and one central scanner for tabulating absentee ballots. The equipment vendor is now testing the devices after delivery before formal training in September. “We’re excited that we have them,” Glatt said. Morton County Auditor Dawn Rhone said she expects the new machines, including 18 ballot scanners, this week, likely on Thursday after the old machines are taken away Wednesday from the courthouse in Mandan. The secretary of state’s office in 2015 pressed the Legislature for new election equipment, but funding priorities didn’t favor the request, especially during deep budget cuts in 2017.
New voting machines for North Dakota are set up in a room at the Capitol. “We’re putting them through the paces, said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. “We want to make sure they can handle our open primary, and any election we would throw at it.” It is the Secretary of State’s job to certify the new devices, and de-certify the devices that are no longer used. Silrum said the contract to finalize the purchase of the new devices will likely be finished by the end of the week, and the plan is to have all the devices in Bismarck by the end of July. After that, county election officials will be trained on them.
North Dakota’s chief elections official hopes to have new equipment at the polls for the 2020 contests after state lawmakers approved $12 million for the devices. Secretary of State Al Jaeger said Wednesday the money will be used to purchase new ballot scanners and electronic poll books, which serve as voter records at individual precincts, across the state. The $12 million approved by lawmakers includes $3 million of federal funding. Jaeger, a Republican, said North Dakotans will still mark a paper ballot but new equipment will be used to count their votes. County election officials have warned about equipment failures for several years, but the 2017 Legislature rejected funding while the state tightened its belt.
The Republican-led Senate has killed a Democrat measure for an appointed non-partisan commission to draw a new map for North Dakota’s legislative districts. The Senate defeated the bill 36-10, along party lines on Monday. The measure was sponsored by Democratic legislative leaders. North Dakota now has 47 legislative districts, each of which is represented by a senator and two House members.
The North Dakota House rejected a bill backed by Democratic lawmakers on Thursday, Jan. 31, that sought to allow the state’s college students to use university-issued identification to vote. House Bill 1479 would have required colleges and universities to provide students with an identification card that could be scanned by a polling clerk to access their address in the state’s central voter file. It failed in a 78-13 vote that almost entirely fell along party lines. Rep. Matt Eidson, D-Grand Forks, was the bill’s primary sponsor.
North Dakota has asked a federal judge to dismiss a Native American tribe’s lawsuit challenging the state’s voter identification requirements, saying in part that tribal members named in the complaint weren’t impeded from voting on Election Day. The attorney general’s office in a Monday filing also argued that the state is immune from such lawsuits in U.S. District Court and that the Spirit Lake Sioux tribe doesn’t have standing to sue for several reasons, including that it’s unclear how the tribe might be affected by the inability of any members to vote. Even if that were clear, attorneys said, the tribe “is not representing the interests of all of its members, merely a select few.”
North Dakota: Few voters verify ID under North Dakota’s new ‘set aside’ ballot system | Grand Forks Herald
Less than a fifth of North Dakotans who marked a “set aside” ballot during last week’s midterm election followed up with a valid identification and had their vote counted, a state election official said Friday, Nov. 16. Under state law, voters who don’t have sufficient identification on Election Day may mark a ballot that’s separated from the rest. If a voter returns with an adequate ID within six days, the ballot would be included in the tally. The new procedure was introduced in the latest iteration of North Dakota’s voter ID law, which passed the Republican-controlled Legislature and was signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in 2017. Across the state, 1,110 voters marked a set aside ballot, Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said. Only 141 of them, or 13 percent, returned to verify their ID, but several counties had not yet reported their figures to state officials by 8 a.m. Friday. At most, 219 people returned to verify their ID.
North Dakota: Federal judge rejects lawsuit, lets North Dakota disenfranchise Native American voters | Salon
federal judge has rejected a North Dakota tribe’s emergency motion to stop a voter ID law that it argued disproportionately affects Native Americans in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “The federal courts are unanimous in their judgment that it is highly important to preserve the status quo when elections are fast approaching,” U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote in his order. The judge said the lawsuit by the Spirit Lake Tribe gives “great cause for concern” and will need a “a detailed response from the Secretary of State as this case proceeds,” but decided that “a further injunction on the eve of the election will create as much confusion as it will alleviate, and is foreclosed by precedent which is hesitant to permit ‘eleventh-hour changes to election laws.’” The Spirit Lake Tribe sued to block the state from enforcing a voter ID law that they argued would disenfranchise hundreds if not thousands of Native Americans ahead of next week’s elections. The law requires all voters to present an ID with their street address, but many Native Americans who live on reservations do not have traditional street addresses and rely on post office box addresses.
To find Honorata Defender’s home on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, mention her name to whoever you can find walking down the main street of her tiny town. They’ll tell you to turn when you get to the powwow grounds and to take the paved road, rather than the gravel one. Drive until you see a hill, and look for her car. Her house has no number on it, and mail is not delivered there; it goes to a P.O. box instead. As Defender put it, “We’ve never believed that a person can own land; it’s the land that owns us.” She added, “The concept of an address wasn’t a big deal.” Defender was working at her job as a reporter for the Corson/Sioux County News-Messenger — the local paper that covers Standing Rock, including one of the key North Dakota counties that voted Democrat in 2012’s Senate election — when she learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld North Dakota’s voter ID law. The law will require each voter to present identification that displays a residential address, a major barrier for tribal members, since thousands of Native voters don’t use a home address. Defender’s home is on the South Dakota side of Standing Rock, but it is typical of the communities throughout the reservation.
Nobody in the squat yellow house serving as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s get-out-the-vote headquarters knew its address. It was on Red Tail Hawk Avenue; they knew that much. But the number was anyone’s guess. Phyllis Young, a longtime tribal activist leading the voter-outreach effort, said it had fallen off the side of the house at some point. Her own home has a number only because she added one with permanent marker. This is normal on Native American reservations. Buildings lack numbers; streets lack signs. Even when a house has an address in official records, residents don’t necessarily know what it is. “We know our communities based off our communities,” said Danielle Ta’Sheena Finn, a Standing Rock spokeswoman and tribal judge. “We know, ‘Hey, that’s so-and-so’s house; you go two houses down and that’s the correct place you need to be.’”
Native American residents of North Dakota have been left scrambling to meet a controversial voter ID requirement that could render many ineligible to vote in the upcoming November mid-term elections. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to overturn the GOP-backed voter law, which requires North Dakotans to show identification with their current street address. As many Native American reservations do not use physical street addresses, the law makes it difficult for thousands of people to cast their ballots. While Native American residents do often use PO boxes as mailing addresses, PO boxes do not qualify as proof of residency under the voter ID law. As a result, many voters will have to make the effort to obtain identification or documents, such as a tribal voting letter issued by tribal officials, that provide proof of a residential address.
Locating a house isn’t easy on the isolated and impoverished Turtle Mountain Indian Reservation in northern North Dakota, and that’s making it more difficult for residents and their counterparts on other reservations in the state to vote this election. To cast a ballot, they need identification with a provable street address — something that isn’t important to the 19,000 people who live on the remote 72-square-mile block of land where most streets have no signs. In their culture, they’ve never needed them. Tribal activist Wes Davis, 37, an official at the local community college and a lifelong reservation resident, describes where he lives this way — to the west of a gas station on the east side of town, behind the high school and across the road from another store.
The Supreme Court declined this month to overturn a North Dakota law that requires voters to present an ID listing their residential address at the polls. The decision could have a negative impact on tens of thousands of rural voters — many of them Native Americans who live on one of the states five reservations, where residents are not required to have a street address. Native Americans have long faced unique challenges relating to voter suppression. They were the last to gain suffrage in 1924 and couldn’t vote in states like Arizona, New Mexico and Utah until 1948.
North Dakota is home to one of the most important Senate races of 2018, and less than three weeks before Election Day, it’s embroiled in a fierce battle over who will be able to participate. nOn Oct. 9, the Supreme Court allowed a new state voter identification requirement to take effect, meaning North Dakotans will be voting under different rules than in the primaries just a few months ago. The change disproportionately affects Native Americans, and tribal leaders and advocacy groups have spent the past week and a half scrambling. In a recent letter to the North Dakota secretary of state, one group called the state’s current process unworkable and proposed a solution, but the secretary of state would not endorse it. It is an extraordinary situation: the electoral process thrown into chaos at the last minute in a state that will help decide which party controls the Senate. Here’s a look at where things stand.
Civil rights groups are expressing outrage over a recent Supreme Court ruling that could make it harder for Native Americans in North Dakota to cast their votes in the upcoming midterm elections. Last week, the Supreme Court ruled against overturning North Dakota’s controversial voter ID law which requires voters to present identification that verifies a current residential street address. Proponents of the law say it will help prevent voter fraud. Opponents say it will prevent many Native Americans from voting. “Addressing on reservations and in rural Native American communities is spotty,” Jacqueline D. De Leon, a member of the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico and an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), told VOA in August.
Men in state government and on the U.S. Supreme Court crippled Native suffrage recently, but women are leading the fight to bring Native votes in record numbers to the polls. Some women are offering rides on Election Day to Natives lacking transportation. Others are filming videos on social media trying to explain what Native people need to prepare for ahead of time. Secretary of State promises to handle address switches from a post office box to a physical address are failing as multiple sources have reported waiting for three weeks to hear back from a county 911 coordinator. On October 9 the U.S. Supreme court voted 6 – 2 to disallow post office boxes as valid addresses to use while voting in North Dakota. All identification papers must have a physical address, which means many Native IDs are useless.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to toss out an appeals court order that allows North Dakota to enforce its voter ID requirement during the 2018 elections. The request to toss out the order came from a group of Native American residents who are challenging a new state law that requires voters to present identification that includes a current residential street address. The challengers argued the new rule disenfranchises a disproportionate share of the population because many Native American voters live on reservations without standard addresses.
North Dakota is going ahead with requiring residents to provide a street address in order to vote on Election Day, even though some American Indian tribes have argued in federal court that they sometimes aren’t assigned on reservations. Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office notified the state’s five tribes by email late Friday of North Dakota voter ID requirements. The email said obtaining a residential street address is a quick and no-cost process that can be done by notifying 911 coordinators in any of North Dakota’s 53 counties. A file containing a downloadable poster was attached to the email. “The effort is to educate people who vote and how to comply with the law,” Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said Monday.
Attorneys representing a group of Native Americans challenging North Dakota’s voter identification laws filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday, Sept. 27. This week, a federal appeals court halted part of a lower court ruling that said the state must accept IDs and supplemental documentation with a current mailing address. The appellate court said that could lead to voters casting a ballot in the wrong precinct if they use a post office box as a mailing address. The Native American Rights Fund, which represents the tribal members, said in a news release the ruling means “several thousand” qualified North Dakota voters “will be unable to vote in this year’s election simply because they do not have a residential address or because they lack the documentation and/or funds to obtain the required voter identification.”
North Dakota: Appeals court ruling a setback for Native Americans challenging voter ID law | Grand Forks Herald
A federal appeals court halted part of a lower court’s ruling in the long-running battle over North Dakota’s voter identification laws Monday, Sept. 24, citing the potential for fraud in the state’s elections. In a split decision representing a setback for Native Americans challenging the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit suspended a federal judge’s April ruling mandating that the state accept IDs and supplemental documentation with a current mailing address. The suspension, known as a stay, will be in effect while the court case moves forward. The appeals court noted North Dakota is the only state without voter registration and has a “legitimate interest in requiring identification and a showing of current residence to prevent voter fraud and to safeguard voter confidence.” It said the state would be “irreparably harmed” without a stay as requested by Secretary of State Al Jaeger, a Republican.