The Williston Rotary Club heard about the upcoming election Monday from the man whose office is tasked with making sure it runs smoothly.
North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger spoke briefly about both the initiated measures voters will weigh in on in November as well as a recent court ruling that will allow the state to implement its voter ID requirements.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week issued a stay of a U.S. District Court ruling that would have required poll workers to accept ID and supplemental documents that have a post office box instead of a street address.
“However, this created a challenge for poll workers in providing the correct ballot to a voter because a voter’s post office box could be in a precinct that is different from the voter’s residential street address,” Jaeger wrote in a news release about the ruling. “It also would have allowed an out-of-state resident having a North Dakota post office box to vote in state elections.”
On Monday, Jaeger said he was pleased that the Eighth Circuit’s stay would allow his office to implement the voter ID law that was updated in 2017.
Under that law, North Dakota residents must provide a valid North Dakota driver’s license, state ID card or tribal ID card that has their current street address in order to vote.
Jaeger said that 97 to 98 percent of voters in the state have an acceptable ID. He noted that the state, which doesn’t have voter registration, has similar ID requirements to other states that do.
“We really do have a very good system,” he said.
There are four initiated measures on November’s ballot: two constitutional amendments and two statutory measures.
One constitutional amendment would create an ethics commission while the other would clarify citizenship requirements.
One statutory measure would legalize recreational marijuana, while the other would make volunteer emergency personnel eligible for free license plates and free admission to state parks.
Jaeger brought up potential issues with three of the four measures to be voted on. Measure 1, which would create an ethics commission, has language that would override anything else in the state constitution if there was a conflict, he pointed out.
While legislators can make changes to statutory measures with a 2/3 majority in each house, they can’t do that with constitutional amendments. Any changes to those have to go back to the public, and the earliest that could happen is 2020.
“I’m not against an ethics commission, I’m concerned about the details,” he said.
Jaeger said the details of Measure 3, which would legalize recreational marijuana, concerned him as well. The language of that measure makes anything that prohibits the use or sale of marijuana by anyone 21 years old and older void.
“There’s a lot of problems with that,” he said.
Measure 4, which would offer volunteer firefighters and other volunteer first responders free license plates, would cost the state about $3.6 million between 2019 and 2021, according to an analysis by the state’s Office of Management and Budget.
“Voters really need to decide if this is really important,” Jaeger said.