North Dakota looks to receive federal funds for voting equipment

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BISMARCK — The state of North Dakota is set to receive $3 million in federal funds to help replace aging election equipment.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger will go before the state's Emergency Commission Thursday, Aug. 30, with a request to receive the money from the Federal Election Assistance Commission. He said it would cover about a third of the cost of a new system, including ballot scanners and electronic poll books, but the Legislature would also be asked to pitch in next session.

The Legislature overwhelmingly rejected two bills totaling $12 million for new equipment last session as lawmakers tightened budgets. At the time, a North Dakota Association of Counties official warned that election officials believed the state's voting system "could experience a dangerously high failure rate in 2018 and be unworkable in 2020."

In a letter describing his office's plans for the funds, Jaeger, a Republican, said the new voting system would replace the one originally purchased in 2004 and 2005. The new system would continue to use paper ballots, he said.

President Donald Trump signed a spending bill in March that included $380 million in grants for states. In North Dakota's case, it requires a $150,000 match by 2020.