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More than a third of North Dakota votes early

Though the November election is still 33 days away, about 4,500 people have already cast their ballots in North Dakota. Last Friday, 40 days before Election Day on Nov. 8, voters were able to begin casting their mail-in or absentee ballots, said ...

Absentee ballot FILE
More than 40 percent of North Dakotans voted early in the 2012 general election. (iStock Photo)
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Though the November election is still 33 days away, about 4,500 people have already cast their ballots in North Dakota.

Last Friday, 40 days before Election Day on Nov. 8, voters were able to begin casting their mail-in or absentee ballots, said Stark County Auditor Kay Haag.

Voters must fill out an application, which can be found in their county auditor's office or on the North Dakota Secretary of State's website, and then send them to their county auditors in order to get a mail-in ballot.

Voters may fill out the ballot at home or at the auditor's office preceding the election. People also had an option to indicate in June during the primaries whether they wanted to receive a mail-in application for the coming election as well. Haag said her office had already sent out about 500 applications.

Mostly, she said, people like the mail-in option for convenience. Some community members like to take the ballot home to look it over before voting-especially when the ballot measures are lengthy like this year. Weather, long voting lines and being out of town are also reasons why some may choose to vote early through the mail.

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"For the people that don't have a vehicle, or are handicapped or are at the age where they just can't get out, it still gives them the opportunity to vote by absentee," Haag said.

But about the same percentage of people voted even before the county offered mail-in ballots, she said.

"I think people really wanted to vote," she said. "They would make it to where they needed to be."

There are 31 counties across North Dakota that offer mail-in ballots, a decision that state law allows each county to make for itself, said Secretary of State Al Jaeger. But each county must have at least one polling location open on Election Day.

"For the counties, one of the main reasons is that it's thought to be more cost-effective because they only have to have one poll open on Election Day, otherwise they might have to have more open," Jaeger said. "Also, I think you'll find that most of the counties are rural in nature, and so this is really a convenience for the voters in that county that they don't have to travel long distances to vote on Election Day."

During the 2012 presidential election, 95,155 people across the state voted either absentee or by mail, and 41,530 voted early in one of the handful of counties that offer early voting the week before Election Day, he said. In total, 136,685 people voted early out of the 325,862 total turnout-meaning about 42 percent of voters voted early, according to the secretary of state's website.

North Dakota also tends to have high voter turnouts during presidential elections, the secretary of state said. Sixty-one percent of North Dakotans voted in the 2012 general election, though turnout for primaries tends to be lower, according to the secretary of state's website.

Voters in Stark County may go to any of the four voting locations-the National Guard Armory and Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson, the Richardton City Hall or Belfield City Hall-to vote on Election Day and do not need to register before doing so. Upon providing a form of identification, such as a driver's license, non-driver's license or military ID, the poll workers will verify their information and give them the ballot corresponding to their address, Haag said.

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Those without a valid form of identification or a license with an address differing from their current address may fill out an affidavit swearing that they do live at the address they are claiming before they may vote.

Jaeger's ultimate goal is to make the voting process as easy as possible. One way to help expedite the process is for voters to check that the address on their license or ID matches their current address, he said. People can visit the North Dakota Department of Transportation to update their address, which in turn will update their information at the polls.

"One of the things that we have as a goal, I've stated it for many years, we want the news the next day to be about the results and not about the voting process," he said. "And I have to say that that's been the case for many years now."

Related Topics: STARK COUNTYAL JAEGER
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