North Dakota to vote by mail in 2020 June primaries
The June 9 primary election will have a different look this year in North Dakota.
Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order in late March urging all counties to strongly consider voting by mail for the election in June, and that is exactly what is happening.
Residents in North Dakota will receive their ballots in the mail after county commissioners in all 53 counties authorized voting by mail for the election.
This is due to the coronavirus and to limit individuals’ exposure to one another.
There will be no polling locations open for the primary election and all ballots will be issued through the mail.
John Odermann, who is running for City Commission in Dickinson, knows that this is not an ideal situation, especially for someone running for the first time.
“It is something I would be opposed to becoming the norm,” he said. “I know that we have had absentee balloting and I think that is an important service we can provide for people that are not able to make it to the polls. I think it does make it a little more difficult for people to vote though. There are two steps now that people have to go through. People have to fill out the application that was mailed out by the Secretary of State’s Office or apply online and after that you have to send in the ballot.”
He is also the head football coach in Dickinson at Trinity High School and he believes that this situation is a lot like football.
He has had to put a game plan together, and now adjust due to unforeseen circumstances.
It has impacted the strategy of campaigning for candidates.
In Dunn County, they offered voting by mail during the 2018 primary and it actually increased voter turnout by about 20%.
“We were one of 34 counties that have done a vote-by-mail election before, so we have done this before,” Dunn County Auditor and Treasurer Tracey Dolezal said. “What has changed because of COVID-19 and the governor's order, we are not having any Election Day voting. Even when we voted by mail in 2018, people still had the option to vote at one of two vote centers.”
All eligible voters in North Dakota should receive an application from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office in the coming weeks, and if they do not by May 11, then they should contact their local auditor. Voters will complete the application and mail it to their local auditor.
After that step is complete, they should receive a ballot in the mail. Individuals can return their ballots to their county’s auditor office or deposit the ballot at a secure mail ballot drop box location.
Ballots being mailed back should be returned by June 8 or at the secure drop box by no later than 4 p.m. on June 9.
“A lot of the counties are trying to learn how to conduct an election by mail,” said Donnell Preskey Hushka, who works at the North Dakota Association of Counties as the executive director for the Auditors Association. “This is new for everyone, because usually while some counties do vote by mail, they have always had to have at least one polling site open on election day. Never before have we had circumstances like we have now.”
As for Odermann, he is using social media and making a lot of phone calls to campaign since he can’t get out and meet people in person.
He also stresses the importance of getting the word out about voting by mail and especially in Stark County, since they did not vote by mail in the 2018 primary like Dunn County.
“That is up to us to spread the word on how this is going to work. It is up to everyone including the city, county, state and individual candidates,” he said. “It is important to spread the word, because if that doesn’t happen, I do think that there could be a historically low turnout because of the steps that you have to jump through. You may have someone that applies for a ballot and then forgets to send it in.... It is really important that people do it early.”