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Ward County begins tallying cost of primary election

Ward County voting was ‘costly,’ ‘labor intensive’

Jill Schramm/MDN Boxes of ballots wait to be screened on election day by a Ward County election board before being added to the vote tally. The June 9 primary election saw a record number of voters.

Ward County has begun advertising for a tax director and tallying the cost of an unusual election.

The Ward County Commission took up these and other matters at a meeting Tuesday.

Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad said her office still is computing the cost of the mail-in primary election, which includes certain expenses that will be submitted for COVID-19 assistance funding. Postage expenses were considerably above normal. For instance, the county spent nearly $550 on postage in corresponding with 997 voters on incomplete ballot applications.

“This has been costly compared to previous elections,” Smestad said.

The primary election saw a record 13,041 ballots counted, according to final numbers released by Smestad to the commission. Voters whose ballots were rejected are being contacted with explanations.

There were 172 letters sent last week to notify voters whose applications or ballots had issues needing correction, costing more than $94 in postage, and additional letters regarding ballot rejection will be sent based on canvassing board action Monday. Rejections typically result from unsigned affidavits, affidavit and application signatures that fail to match and missed postmark or dropbox deadlines.

“The labor intensity of this was unbelievable,” said Smestad, who thanked employees of various county offices who stepped in to help over the weeks running up to the election.

Commissioner Shelly Weppler thanked voters who supported the measure that extends the county sales tax 20 years beyond the existing December 2022 sunset. The money will finish paying off bonds on building construction and fund future highway and bridge projects.

Weppler also voiced her appreciation for a decision by voters that finally ends the debate over the weather modification program.

“The vote-no people certainly were out and did the work they felt they needed to do,” she said. “It was a grassroots program that started 50 years ago, and it’s grassroots program that has brought it to an end.”

In other business, the county will take job applications for tax director until July 14. The tax director position will become vacant after Friday when Ryan Kamrowki departs. Kamrowski has been with the office for seven years, five of them as director. He will join the City of Minot as city assessor.

The commission will be interviewing in-house to fill a vacancy that will occur after June 30 when Betty Braun retires as county recorder.

On Tuesday, the commission ended the COVID-19 emergency declaration. The county remains able to access COVID-19 assistance through the state’s emergency declaration that remains in effect. The county declaration allowed for use of county emergency funds but none have had to be accessed.

The county approved the use of $8,480 from the asset forfeiture fund for the Sheriff’s Department to acquire crowd control gear, including helmets and shields. Sheriff Robert Roed said the department realized the need to have equipment on hand after asked by Fargo to possibly provide assistance with a protest that turned violent there.

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