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After voter ID changes, ND election officials not expecting many hiccups Tuesday

Rod Rexine casts his ballot with inspector Dick Brothers during early voting Monday, June 4, 2018, at Ramada Inn, Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

BISMARCK — North Dakota election officials aren't expecting many hiccups during next week's primary election despite changes to the state's voter identification law.

Tuesday, June 12, will mark the first statewide election since state legislators passed a new voter ID law last year, which was later amended by a federal judge in an ongoing lawsuit. As of early Friday afternoon, almost 32,600 ballots had already been cast, including mail-in and absentee ballots.

Despite the frequent changes in North Dakota's voter ID law — legislation passed in each of the last three sessions have met legal challenges — the Secretary of State's Office isn't planning a statewide educational campaign on the requirements. A pending lawsuit is creating some uncertainty over the ultimate outcome.

"Informing the public now about information that may later change may cause more confusion than good," attorneys for the state wrote in an April 10 court brief.

Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger said most voters are already using acceptable IDs and any individual problems that arise can be handled by trained poll workers.

State Rep. Joshua Boschee, the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State this year, wished the incumbent's office was "more clear" with voter ID information but acknowledged "95 percent of North Dakotans have an ID" and will vote without a problem. Still, he said people who are new to the area might face some hurdles.

"We're trying our best as a campaign to educate people," Boschee said.

Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said his office will publish the voter ID requirements in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead on Monday.

"We always have that in there and we've updated for this time," he said.

North Dakota requires voters to provide an ID with their name, residential or mailing address and date of birth. Missing or out-of-date information can be supplemented with utility bills, bank statements, government-issued checks and documents or paychecks.

The state's law allows voters who don't provide adequate identification to have their ballot set aside until they return with a valid ID.

North Dakota is the only state without voter registration. During the 2016 general election, voters were able to use affidavits to swear their eligibility without an ID, but a federal judge eliminated that option in April while otherwise loosening the state's law.

Student leaders in Fargo and Grand Forks said this week they haven't heard voter ID questions from classmates, many of whom have likely left campus for the summer.

"It could potentially be an issue when the general elections rolls around in the fall and students are back on campus," Chase Grindberg, the North Dakota State University student body president, said in an email.

Tuesday's election isn't expected to produce much drama in the statewide races. The primary is meant to nominate candidates for the November election, and two years ago it featured a bruising Republican contest for governor.

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer and state Sen. Kelly Armstrong, both Republican-endorsed candidates who are running this year for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House, respectively, will face challengers with little name recognition. There are no ballot measures for voters to consider, either.

Two former Republican statewide candidates will be on the ballot despite dropping their campaigns: state Sen. Tom Campbell, who was running for Congress, and Will Gardner, who abandoned his Secretary of State bid after his 2006 peeping arrest surfaced.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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