Why did some individuals who weren’t eligible to vote receive ballot applications?
North Dakota sent out some 650,000 ballot applications, but some of them went to people who were underage, deceased, or no longer state residents.
The Williston Herald talked to North Dakota’s Director of Elections, Brian Neway, to understand why that happened, and what’s being done about it to ensure only eligible individuals vote.
Neway said it was caused in part by the fact North Dakota does not have a voter registration system.
“If you are a voter registration state, you have to do what is called maintenance with your list,” he explained.
That generally entails sending out a postcard to voters once a year, which, if unreturned, flags that voter as potentially inactive or moved. If they don’t vote in the next federal election, that individual can then be removed from the active voter roll.
“We don’t have that process here,” Neway said.
And, in fact, this is the first time the state has needed to send ballot applications out en masse, to try to ensure every potential voter in the state gets one.
There were 678,000 people in the central voter file, Neway said. Those were run against state records for people who had either moved or died.
These records were not up-to-date for every potential voter, however. And non-driver identifications were mixed into these records, some of whom are not old enough to vote.
This resulted in some individuals receiving ballot applications who do not qualify for them.
“Ballots weren’t mailed,” Neway said. “They were applications. We have security measures in place to ensure only people having the right to a ballot get one. And then, to cast it, you have to provide a driver’s identification number, which we compare to the central voter file.”
Ballots must also be signed by the individual it is for, and that signature is compared to the signature on the application to ensure that they match.
Neway said the Central Voter File is being updated based on the new information learned about each potential voter. Those who are deceased, moved away, or underage will get added to a different bucket showing that they are ineligible to vote and shouldn’t be sent ballot applications.
One of the other problems with the process, Neway acknowledged, is that some regular voters did not receive ballots who should have. In some cases, this could be because the voter moved and their driver’s license address no longer matches what’s in the Central Voter Database.
Anyone who is eligible to vote and hasn’t received a ballot application should contact their county auditor’s office to request one. Time is running out to get them in the mail, fill them out, and return them by mail. Ballots must be either post-marked by June 8, or they must be placed in the county’s secure drop-box by 4 p.m. June 9 to count.
The state also has a ballot tracker tool on nd.gov to see if your application has been received, and whether a ballot has been sent out.