Let there be two things that can always be said about Stark County Auditor Alice Schulz: She has never been afraid of change and she always has tried to make voting as efficient and easy as possible for residents and her staff.
Stark County is joining Stutsman County this year in employing “voting centers,” an effort that is hoped to eliminate confusion regarding where people must go to vote. Under the voting center concept, residents no longer must vote within their “precinct” as established by their place of residence in a community or county.
As reported by the Associated Press this past Wednesday, the state’s county auditors attended two days of election training at the state Capitol this week. The voting centers and “vote by mail” are two new concepts to be employed for the primary and general elections this year.
Twenty-two counties plan to use vote by mail as their primary voting mechanism this year, which eliminates the need for residents to travel to any voting location. The main challenge before the auditors of those 22 counties is getting updated addresses of their county residents so materials can be properly mailed to them.
As for Stark County, Schulz is creating five voting centers, including three in Dickinson and one each in Richardton and Belfield. Eliminated are voting places in South Heart, Taylor and Gladstone, along with the Stark County Courthouse.
The Dickinson voting centers to be used in the upcoming June and November elections include Break Forth Bible Church at 600 S. Main, the Dickinson Armory on Museum Drive and the Days Inn-Grand Dakota Lodge.
Each center is to have a supply of each of the different ballots to be used throughout the county on Election Day, as voters get the ballot that matches where they live. Most Dickinson residents aren’t voting in state legislative races this year, while residents of rural Stark County are part of a different legislative district that is choosing two House members and a senator.
Using a voting center also should reduce the cost of holding an election, Schulz said, as she doesn’t need to hire as many people to work the polling places.
As has been the case recently, Schulz also intends to offer about two weeks of early voting at the courthouse so people can beat the Election Day rush. People also are reminded they can vote by absentee ballot.
Schulz also is hoping to arrange opportunities for senior citizens in South Heart, Taylor and Gladstone to have transportation provided for them to Dickinson so they can vote in advance of Election Day.
Schulz and her staff should be commended for their willingness to embrace new opportunities to provide a better election process for Stark County residents. As with anything done for the first time, there are surely to be some bugs that will need to be identified and worked out.
Schulz and her staff have a great track record, however, for immediately addressing issues that pop up. The bottom line regarding voting this year, and most every year, is get it done early so you can enjoy the opportunity. And ask questions as needed of very qualified county individuals who are very anxious and happy to assist you.