BISMARCK-A recall election in a town of about 45 people is expected to be among the first tests of North Dakota's new voter identification law later this year.
The new law, passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Doug Burgum in late April, goes into effect Saturday, July 1, along with a swath of other bills. July 1 marks the beginning of a new two-year funding cycle known as a biennium.
Proponents of the new law said it will help protect the "integrity" of North Dakota elections while addressing concerns raised by a federal lawsuit over voter ID requirements passed in the previous two legislative sessions.
Still, a court order requiring the state to provide affidavits to voters who can't produce a valid ID is still in effect, said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. He expects affidavits to be available alongside the procedures laid out in the new voter ID law during a City Council recall election in the small town of Courtenay, N.D., and a sales tax vote in Williston, both scheduled for October.
Those are the first elections scheduled after the new law takes effect, "at least to our knowledge," Silrum said.
"It'll actually give people more options for those elections," he said. "We do need to have the court case decided or the judge has to make a ruling. Until then, the new law goes in place but the injunction still holds."
The new law doesn't include an affidavit option but instead allows voters without an ID to cast a ballot that's set aside until they can produce one. An ID that's out of date could be supplemented with a current utility bill or bank statement.
Valid forms of identification under the new law are IDs issued by the state Department of Transportation or a tribal government. It also includes options for those in "special circumstances," such as living in a long-term care facility.
Tom Dickson, an attorney for seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa who sued Secretary of State Al Jaeger over previous voter ID changes, has said the new law doesn't comply with a federal judge's ruling from last year. Asked this week whether he intends to ask the judge to block the new law's implementation, he said "we are looking at it."
There hasn't been any activity in that case since U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland's Sept. 20 order. No hearings are currently scheduled.
Casey Bradley, the auditor for Stutsman County, where Courtenay is located, said he's waiting for the release of a new election law manual from the Secretary of State's Office to help train poll workers. He said consistent changes in identification requirements makes it harder for voters to keep up.
"They kind of get accustomed to something, and the next election it's changed," Bradley said.