Some county voters to get vote by mail option

Voters in four Ward County precincts will have the option to vote by mail next year.

The Ward County Commission approved a vote-by-mail trial in Des Lacs, Makoti, Ryder and South Prairie precincts for the 2018 primary and general elections.

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State, 32 counties use mail voting, with one or two polling places open on election day. In those cases, the mail voting is countywide rather than select precincts.

Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad suggested the commission consider mail balloting in four of the county’s 15 precincts due to fewer than 300 voters in each. Mail ballots are allowed by law in precincts with fewer than 500 voters.

Voters in mail balloting counties still could vote at the Ward County Administration Building in Minot on election day if they choose not to return mail ballots. They also could vote early at the county building. The commission approved extending future early voting from four days to six.

Smestad said it is difficult to find poll workers in these smaller precincts, and the cost per voter of operating the poll is high. A Ward County survey about five years ago showed 73 percent of respondents supported voting by mail.

Mail ballots are sent to all residents of a precinct based on driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards through the Motor Vehicle Department.

Commissioner John Fjeldahl cast the dissenting vote in the 4-1 decision to try voting by mail, which he compared to closing precincts.

“I am not really fond of this effort, though they are small,” he said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.62/week.

Subscribe Today