North Dakota Considering Several Bills Changing Voting Laws

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Republicans are pushing a group of bills making big changes to voting qualifications and processes.

HB1332, introduced by Rep. Randy Boehning, would change the residency requirement for voting from 30 days before election day to 30 days before absentee ballots are distributed, meaning that you’d have to be in the state for about 70 days to vote. That would push back the residency cut-off date to about August, well before college students arrive in the state. Currently, a lot of college students from out of state arrive here and vote in our elections after living on or near campus for just 30 days. This bill would end that.

HB1238, introduced by Rep. Ben Koppelman, wouldn’t allow absentee ballots to be sent out any earlier than 20 days before the election. Right now law requires that ballots be made ready 40 days before the election, and they can be distributed at any point after that. The idea is that a lot can change in the 40 days leading up to an election, and voters casting their ballots that early may regret it.

HB1400, introduced by Rep. Brenda Heller, would cut early voting times in half. Currently early voting can go on for 15 days prior to election day. This would cut it down to 7.

HB1275, introduced by Rep. Jim Kasper, would change the way ballots cast by people who haven’t proved their home address are handled. Currently people who don’t have proof of their address simply sign an affidavit. Their ballots are then counted, and the affidavits aren’t looked at until after the election. Which is problematic for obvious reasons. This bill would have the ballot cast by that voter put in a sealed envelope and not counted until the voter proves their address with valid identification.

HB1345, introduced by Rep. Chet Pollert, would require that local election officials appoint someone to specifically safeguard ballots from the time of their printing to the time of their destruction.

I’m not a fan of early or absentee voting, and I think our residency and voter ID requirements are far too lax, so these seem like common sense reforms. Democrats, who are very dependent on the university vote, are already crying foul and making accusations of voter suppression, but let’s keep in mind that we not only have a right to vote but also a right not to have our vote canceled out by someone voting illegally, or voting because they meet the bare minimum of our residency requirements but don’t actually live here.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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  • camsaure

    I see no need really for early voting, but as for absentee ballots their are quite a few people working in other parts of the state away from their precinct. Remember these are working folks and not “slackers”. I do think that I agree mostly with what else is being introduced.

  • camsaure

    I would also like to see severe penalties for anyone willfully engageing in any type of voter fraud. That goes for forging signatures on referendums also.

  • onbison09

    Where is the evidence of rampant voter fraud that would necessitate these bills? Why limit early voting? The only thing I can come with is that Heidi won.

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      Where is the evidence of rampant voter fraud that would necessitate these bills?

      Well, it’s hard to provide evidence for things the state doesn’t really investigate. But the most important reform here I think is expanding the residency requirement. It is ridiculous that a college student can live in his/her dorm for 30 days and then vote, especially when most of those out-of-state college kids don’t stay here.

      why should they get to influence our elections?

      • KJUU

        … because they live here as long as an oil worker?

        • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

          We’re going from 30 days to 70 days.

          Do you really think that’s such a hardship?

          • KJUU

            Is there a problem with 30 days? If it’s not broken, then don’t fix it.

      • onbison09

        I guess I get that argument but what about early voting? Why limit that?

  • http://Sayanythingblog.com The Whistler

    My concern is that getting absentee ballots out to those serving in the military might be difficult in that time frame. If there is a provision I don’t see any big problems.

  • DWHoover

    Rob, I am curious as to your not being a fan of early voting or absentee voting? Early voting was nice because it helps to eliminate lines elsewhere. I have only absentee voted once, and that was when I was deployed overseas. I am sure you don’t have a problem with that sort of absentee voting, but is that the only exception you see?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think there should be good reason for absentee voting, like military deployment or if you’re hospitalized or something. But other than that, I think voting ought to be done at the polls.

      • DWHoover

        Fair enough. I was just curious. Thanks!

  • RCND

    The only concern I have with the absentee ballots is ensuring they are ready for deployed servicemembers to be able to receive, process, and return in time to be counted. It’s already a tight timeframe for them as is, and we must ensure their special circumstances are taken into consideration somehow

    • Somebodysomewhere

      I agree – Military would have to be an exception in this bill. I otherwise agree with it.

  • headward

    I like the HB1332. College students from out of state shouldn’t be voting in ND elections anyways. They just leave the summer and after they get their degree(or lack of one).

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      I think that might be the most important of the lot of them.

      • DelawareBeachHouse

        Yes. Good stuff.

  • spud

    I don’t see any of these bills being of any major consequence in our state. HB1332 has most impact of any only that now instead of casting votes in our state they would cast them in there “real ” home states. To the person who brought up voter fraud not an issue because all these states that pushed reducing voter turnout all voted democrat anyway. Republicans lose elections because there base is dying. Relying on old angry white guys is a losing proposition. Try talking to Hispanics, Asians, blacks, gays, young people. Has to be better than this voter fraud crap they peddle.

  • Matthew Hawkins

    Other than partisan politics, why is disenfranchising college students a good idea? Do they not have an interest in elections?

    • http://sayanythingblog.com Rob

      We’re not disenfranchising just any college students. We’re disenfranchising college students who don’t really live here.

      College students who are actually ND citizens wouldn’t be impacted. College students just moving here from another state would be.

      Seriously, what’s so terrible about a 70-day residency requirement? Shouldn’t ND elections be settled by people who a bit more invested in the state than living in a dorm for 30 days?

      • Matthew Hawkins

        What is terrible about the 30 days and 70 days is that elections are in November not in January. If elections were in January you would support 130 days. All this is about is that students don’t vote the way you want them to.

      • KJUU

        It’s not terrible, I just don’t see the need to increase it. What threat to ND politics can be mitigated if a student who moved here in the summer can vote in November, but one who moved here in September can’t? An extra semester of investment in the outcome? Aren’t students affected by representation at all levels of government, no matter where they are? Or is a student who just missed the deadline by a day exempt from laws created by the people who are elected into office?

        Taxation with representation only if you’re spending your money in the state an extra 40 days?

        I don’t see a problem that needs to be fixed.

        • John_Wayne_American

          I actually don’t mind limiting the college vote on local issues, they can vote for mayor back in their home towns on their absentee ballots,

          We don’t need 12,000 college students voting for park board, school board or city commission in a town they have no intention to ever pay taxes for. Let their moms and dads back home pay for their lofty liberal ideals.

          After they see whats left of a real paycheck after taxes in the form of that first post grad job, then they can vote in the community in which they will help pay for their decisions.

      • Rick

        Rob, you are partially right on the effects of North Dakota students. This law would mean that a student at Minot State from the city of Oakes would have to vote in Oakes and could not vote in Minot. I do not view this as a bad thing, those students should want to be a part of the local portion of their ballot.

        I w old like to see the state enforce the residency of those out of state students that do vote in North Dakota. If they vote here, they become North Dakota residents and forfeit all rights from their former state, such as state sponsored scholarships, drivers license, and state income tax filing. The should have to get an ND license and file their taxes with ND.

  • KJUU

    Other than the last one, I see these bills as solutions in search of a problem. LESS laws, not more laws, is what we should be seeking.

  • Stuart

    I’d be in favor of this move…we don’t need more people like Heidi voted into office by progressives and liberals who believe the Electorial College should be taken out of the Election process and let big city thugs run our country.

  • Stuart

    As a combat Veteran, we have been disenfranchise ever since I can remember , and much of the time it’s deliberate especially when the Dem’s are in control of the money or the mission of seeing the Military ballots get to the voting areas.

  • jimmypop

    ask what 1345 would cost local tax payers….

    anyway, we have another case of little town syndrome…if you want a funny story, ask why this bill even exists.

    here is what i comes down to; if you cant trust your auditors you need new ones. if they are breaking election laws, charge them.

  • somebodysomewhere

    HB 1275 hands down is a needed modification to our voting system. Signing an affidavit to vote because you don’t have a ID is a joke. From what I understand, ND has not had much voter fraud, so validating affidavits wasn’t priority. With the influx of population in the past year, we should have been on top of this before Nov. 2012 – I believe the system was used and abused. Could have made a difference.

  • WOOF

    Residency is pretty much where the individual says they live.
    Conrad in some ND apt, Cheney in Wyoming.
    Freshmen can get af state license and establish

    ND citizenship then legally vote when upperclassmen.
    The trade off is while denying student votes you deny oil field workers votes.
    Denying citizens the franchise is despicable.

    • John_Wayne_American

      The oilfield workers can vote absentee in their home state, unless they have chosen ND as their state of residency, By changed their DL as well as their vehicle registration.

      Their new “current North Dakota ID” would suffice. not?

      Any other system is asking/begging for dual state voting (untraceable fraud)

      • WOOF

        ND law on ID for voting may have changed ?
        “Valid driver’s license or state ID card

        Valid passport or federal agency ID card

        Valid government-issued tribal ID card

        Valid student ID card

        Valid U.S. military ID card

        Utility bill dated 30 days prior to election day with name and residential address

        Change of address verification letter from U.S. Postal Service”

        • John_Wayne_American

          So if I’m in town from Moorhead the day of the election, and I present my Valid Moorhead MN Drivers license, I could tell them I have met the criteria and wish to vote?????

          Same with Student ID, a Hibbng MN college student shows her UND dorm address Student ID, and gets to vote for President or Local dogcatcher. A week before she waltzed into the Hibbing City hall with her MN DL and voted early with her parents. Unfreaking traceable.

          ND and MN may share a database, but OK TX LA NY OR WA have you seen all those license plates in the Williston airport parking lot??

          • WOOF

            There are always ways to cheat.
            It can be made difficult.
            I don’t live in ND

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