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Campaign underway to educate N.D. residents on voter ID requirements

BISMARCK -- North Dakota’s secretary of state is spending about $700,000 on a public education campaign to make residents aware of the state’s voter identification requirements, which Republican lawmakers changed last year against Democratic opposition.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced the campaign, themed “Voting in North Dakota: Easy as Pie,” on Monday in Bismarck.

The North Dakota Association of Counties worked with KAT Communications of Bismarck to develop the advertisements. They will run in newspapers and magazines and on TV, radio, the Internet and billboards starting this week and in the several weeks leading to the June primary election and November general election, Jaeger said at the Capitol.

“The identification requirement is a matter of law, and so what we want to do is we want to make sure that everybody is aware of that law,” he said.

North Dakota has required voters to provide ID since 2004. It’s the only state in the country that doesn’t require voter registration.

Republican lawmakers passed a bill last year that requires voters to bring an acceptable form of ID showing their current address and birth date to the polls, saying it would help eliminate voter fraud. The change took away voters’ option of signing an affidavit on the back of the ballot swearing their eligibility to vote.

The five valid forms of ID are a North Dakota driver’s license, a non-driver’s ID available for free through the North Dakota Department of Transportation, a tribal-issued ID, a student ID certificate and a long-term care ID certificate. A photo ID is not required under the new rules.

Democrats criticized the new restriction as unnecessary and politically motivated and said it will make it harder for senior citizens, the disabled, active military members, American Indians and college students to vote.

“The new voter ID law is, in our belief, one of the most egregious laws in the nation, and the reason for that is that the law actually eliminates the failsafe option of voting by affidavit,” Bob Valeu, chairman of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party and a former deputy secretary of state, said Monday. “What that does is literally put thousands of North Dakotans at risk of being disenfranchised … and we saw part of that in the special election in Fargo.”

Fargo and McKenzie County both held special elections last week related to school financing. Jaeger said there was “extensive” news coverage of the voting requirements before the McKenzie County vote and that he hadn’t heard any reports of voting issues there, but he said his office did receive a couple of calls from the Fargo area “from people who were accustomed to coming in with other things in terms of identification.

“However, from what we’ve been able to gather, it was not significant,” he said.

Asked why the educational campaign didn’t start before those elections, Jaeger said his office’s responsibility is to get the message out for statewide elections. He said it was happenstance that the special elections took place around the same time.

“This was a long time in planning,” he said.

Jaeger said the $700,000 will come from federal funds the state has received from Congress through the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The state currently has about $3 million in HAVA funds.

Valeu said he believes the rules issued by Jaeger’s office concerning the ID requirements are confusing and “unworkable.” He said Gov. Jack Dalrymple should call a special legislative session to correct the law by allowing affidavit voters to cast a provisional ballot that would be set aside until they could prove their voter eligibility, or at least put nonpartisan observers at the polls in June to make sure the requirements aren’t disenfranchising voters.

More information about the requirements is available at

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.