ND ballot measure petition calls for paper ballots, no early voting

A sweeping new ballot petition filed with North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe aims to significantly revamp the system for voting in North Dakota elections. The “Election Integrity Act Initiative” would end early voting, affirm a voter I.D. requirement, and return to paper ballots that would be hand-counted on Election Day, among other changes.

Once Howe approves a title for the petition, it would need to be signed by more than 31,000 residents in order to qualify to go on the ballot in November 2024. Supporters told KX News they proposed the wide-ranging changes in response to increasing skepticism among voters over the electoral process.

The act would also eliminate ranked-choice voting, and add watermarks to every ballot along with a seal from the county where the person voted.

“Right now, the people of North Dakota have lost faith in the elections,” said Senator Jeff Magrum. “I hear it all the time that their concern is that if we don’t fix the elections, they don’t even know if it’s worth voting anymore. We don’t want them to lose total confidence in the elections, so I think having this measure pass would force the Secretary of State to have more integrity in our elections going forward.”

The proposal would eliminate the use of electronic tabulation by machines and internet connection. While hand-counting votes would likely take more time, the measure places a premium on tabulating votes and immediately announcing the results on Election Day. Forum News notes there would also be tighter restrictions on absentee ballots.

The petition bans early voting and allows absentee voting only to those who request a ballot in writing “within a reasonable time period prior to Election Day.” The absentee ballots must be returned by 8 p.m. on the day before Election Day, counted and announced prior to Election Day.

Ballot boxes should be monitored at all times, the petition said, and public drop boxes for ballot collection are prohibited.

Candidates with the most votes in the first round of voting must be declared elected, according to the proposed measure, and all ballot measures and recalls receiving more “yes” votes than “no” votes in the first round will be declared passed.

The petition would also streamline the process for putting candidates on the ballot, as well as lower the bar for recalling officials in office.

When it comes to recalling elected officials, the committee proposes changing the required percentage of electors who voted in the last election from 25% to 10%, lowering the requirement to remove someone from office.

Petitioners have until Feb. 12, 2024, to submit the signatures needed to the Secretary of State for verification and to be placed on the ballot in the 2024 election.