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Transparency bills good for voters

Barbara Headrick, President, League of Women Voters of North Dakota, Fargo-Moorhead

The League of Women Voters of North Dakota’s top priority this legislative session was protecting voting rights to ensure our elections remain fair and accessible for all eligible North Dakota voters. Our advocacy volunteers were busy tracking 39 election bills and resolutions — some good, some bad, and some neutral.

First, the bad bills. We saw bills that would eliminate mail-in voting, restrict ballot drop boxes, limit vote centers, and require proof of citizenship for all voters. The good news is these bills failed to pass.

What wasn’t good for voting access was a bill to require recently naturalized citizens to prove their citizenship in order to vote. With more than 700 citizens naturalized in North Dakota each year and no reports of noncitizens voting in our elections, this bill will place a hardship on our new American and immigrant voters. We opposed this bill and will continue to advocate for recently naturalized voters.

Second, the good bills. Two bills to increase transparency will become law:

House Bill 1424 requires candidates to file with an email address. Most of the 2,000 candidates in the June 2022 primary election submitted only a mailing address when they filed, which means unless you knew the candidate, you could only contact them by sending them mail. This new law will allow voters to more easily contact their candidates and make it easier for us to invite candidates to fill out our voter guide on VOTE411.org.

House Bill 1257 requires school board members – in school districts with a fall enrollment of 750 students or more – to submit campaign finance reports. We’ve seen large fields of candidates in some recent school board races, like in 2022 in Grand Forks where 23 candidates ran for the 5 open school board seats. This new law will align school board reporting requirements with other public offices in the state and is a boon for voters wanting to learn more about their candidates.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the bill to ban ranked choice and approval voting in North Dakota will not become law, due in no small part to Fargo voters reaching out to legislators across the state. This is good news for cities to keep local control of their elections and for Fargo which uses approval voting for city elections.

We were pleased to see the increase in election transparency this session and will continue advocating for the voting rights of North Dakota voters.

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