BISMARCK — North Dakota voters will have a chance to reaffirm their confidence in President Donald Trump or pick his Democratic challenger on Tuesday, March 10, when the two major parties hold their presidential caucuses in the state.
The Democratic-NPL Party's caucuses will garner more attention Tuesday with the Republican side already sewn up for Trump. Democrats can cast their votes at any of the 14 locations across the state, while Republicans can have their say at eight locations, however Trump is the only candidate on the ballot and there will be no write-in option.
Changes to the format
North Dakota's Democratic primary is called a "firehouse" caucus because it is held in public places and run by the state party rather than the state government. In previous presidential election years, the party has opted for a more traditional caucus, in which voters may have been required to stick around for several rounds of voting to make sure they're vote counted.
Changes to this year's format mean voters can cast a ballot and leave — much the same as they would in a state-run election.
Both parties have mail-in ballots this year, with the Democrats rolling the option out for the first time. More than 3,100 Democratic ballots had been requested by voters as of Friday, Feb. 28, according to party spokesman Alex Rohr.
Rohr said the adjustments are meant to make the voting process more inclusive and accessible to college students, Native Americans and people with irregular schedules. Rohr said the engagement with the mail-in options is encouraging. About 3,350 people voted in the party's 2016 caucus, in which Bernie Sanders beat eventual nominee Hillary Clinton.
The option to request Democratic mail-in ballots is no longer available, and those already requested must be postmarked by March 5 to count. Republicans can print their ballots online and send them in by the day before the election.
Where and when do I vote?
The 14 locations for the Democratic-NPL Party's caucuses include:
The Fargo–Moorhead AFL-CIO building at 3002 First Ave. N in Fargo.
The IBEW building at 1714 N Washington St. in Grand Forks.
The AFL-CIO House of Labor at 1323 E Front Ave. # 1 in Bismarck.
The Gladstone Hotel at 111 Second St. NE in Jamestown.
The Dickinson Elks Lodge at 501 Elks Drive in Dickinson.
Other polling sites in Williston, Minot, Valley City, Wahpeton, and Devils Lake and on the state's four largest Native American reservations will also be open. Another rule change means voters will also be able to vote at any location they choose, rather than just the one closest to their home.
All locations will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time, and Rohr said the party hopes to have 95% of the votes announced by 11 p.m.
The party has contracted with New York-based Global Election Services to provide traditional voting machines and count the paper ballots, Rohr said. The party will not be using any untested applications like the one that caused major technical issues in Iowa last month.
Republican caucus sites, including the Holiday Inn at 3803 13th Ave S. in Fargo and the Ramada Inn at 1205 N 43rd St. in Grand Forks, will be open from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Central time. State GOP chairman and former U.S. Rep. Rick Berg said the party will count the ballots internally and hopes to have them tallied by 10 p.m.
How do I vote?
North Dakotans who wish to vote in the Democratic race on the day of the caucus will need to check in at a polling site and sign a "Pledge of Support" to the party. Presenting a formal identification card will not be required, Rohr said. The paper ballots will look like any other statewide or national ballot.
Democratic voters will have a choice between 12 candidates, including:
Bernie Sanders, an independent U.S. senator from Vermont and a self-described "democratic socialist," who has won primaries in Nevada and New Hampshire.
Joe Biden, a former U.S. vice president and U.S. senator, who won the South Carolina primary and has made an effort to appeal to moderate voters and minorities.
Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic U.S. senator from Massachusetts and former law professor, who presents herself as a progressive candidate.
Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire businessman and the former mayor New York City, who has said he's the only one who can beat Trump in November.
Also appearing on the ballot are U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and drop-outs U.S. Sen Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, Tom Steyer, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Deval Patrick and Andrew Yang. Steyer, Klobuchar and Buttigieg dropped out of the race following Biden's win in South Carolina.
The result of the Republican primary is already decided, but Berg said the event will serve as an informal kick-off to Trump's reelection campaign in the state.
"It'll be a fun opportunity for people who have been supporters of President Trump across the state," Berg said.
The bigger picture
North Dakota Democrats represent just a drop in the bucket for the candidates vying to secure the party's nomination. The state is worth only 14 pledged delegates, tied with Wyoming for lowest amount in the country. Overall, there are nearly 4,000 pledged delegates up for grabs.
The state's primaries also come a week after "Super Tuesday," when more than a third of those delegates will be awarded, as Minnesota and 13 other states head to the polls. In previous primary races, the day has proved a pivotal day in the campaign.
Along with North Dakotans, residents of Mississippi, Michigan, Idaho, Missouri and Washington will head to the polls on March 10.
The 29 Republican delegates that will attend the Republican National Convention will be chosen at the state convention on March 28 in Bismarck.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will take on the Republican nominee, which is likely to be Trump, in the Nov. 3 election.