An executive order issued by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on March 26 strongly recommended, but did not order, that counties conduct vote by mail and the order suspended the requirement that counties have at least one physical polling location. This order authorized state election officials to make their own determinations at the local level.
On Tuesday morning, Stark County commissioners were asked to affirm and uphold their oaths by voting on a resolution affirming that they will maintain polling places in order to secure the rights of county citizen to vote in-person this November.
Should Stark County residents have the right to in-person voting during a global pandemic?
Commissioners thought so and passed the resolution unanimously certifying that the county will have in-person voting come November.
Commissioners approved the resolution, which was drafted and presented by Andrew “Kord” Kordonowy, president of Cerberus Security LLC and Stark County resident, and in so doing pledged their intentions to uphold the requirements outlined in the North Dakota Century Code to maintain polling places in order to "secure the rights of the citizens of Stark County to vote in-person on Election Day."
The resolution comes following a June 9 preliminary election which raised questions surrounding the legality of a mail-in only elections and resulted in multiple civil complaints and suits filed against county commissioners, canvassing boards, state's attorneys and election officials across the state.
According to the resolution, Stark County is in agreement that it can properly conduct an in-person election on election day at one or several polling places in the county, established for the public to cast votes for the November elections. Furthermore the resolution affirms that commissioners wished to express opposition to any law or executive order that would restrict the rights of the citizens of Stark County to vote in-person in November.
Commissioner Jay Elkin addressed the matter, asking election official Kay Haag if she would declare the Henry Biesiot Activities Center as being open for in-person voting this November. Haag replied that due to the nature of Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing, a better option would be to declare the Prairie Hills Mall as the primary location.
This was unanimously approved and the resolution passed.
A high-tech voting system and a global pandemic mean that voting centers this year have a whole new set of requirements, and the usually cold climate in November could cause some issues considering the expected record turn-out for this year's election.
Roughly 158,000 North Dakotans voted in the recent June election, which was a historically strong turnout relying solely on mail-in ballots. Vote-by-mail surged to the forefront of politics this primary season as the coronavirus pandemic had state governments scrambling to restructure their election systems. In North Dakota, however, it witnessed the highest voter turnout in state history.