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North Dakota looks to receive federal funds for voting equipment

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

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.

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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