FARGO — The Tuesday, June 9 election in North Dakota could historically rank among the top June elections when it comes to voter participation, county and state election officials said Monday.
Tuesday's vote — which is being conducted solely with mail-in ballots — is a primary election for state races and a general election when it comes to things like city and school board races.
As of Monday afternoon, about 37,000 ballots had been mailed to Cass County voters and, of those, about 23,000 had been completed and returned to Cass County election officials.
That put the voting on pace to surpass the 23,950 ballots cast during a June election in 2006, which stands as a high-water mark for June elections, according to DeAnn Buckhouse, election coordinator for Cass County.
It is the first time Cass County has used mail-only voting.
To be eligible for counting, Buckhouse said completed ballots returned by mail must be postmarked no later than June 8.
Completed ballots will also be accepted if they are dropped off at a secure box outside the Cass County Courthouse by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The courthouse is at 211 9th St. S. in Fargo.
It will not be possible for anyone to get a ballot Tuesday, county officials said.
Buckhouse said the decision to go with mail-only balloting was based on several factors, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the risk in-person voting poses to voters and election judges.
Many election judges, Buckhouse said, are of an age that puts them at particular risk for COVID-19.
Had the county decided to include in-person voting as an option, Buckhouse said it would likely have been difficult, if not impossible, to find enough election judges to cover polling sites.
Buckhouse said mail-only voting has proven to be labor intensive for the county, which needed to hire a number of temporary workers to help with the added workload of preparing, mailing and processing ballots.
About 50 election workers spent Monday reviewing completed ballots at the Ramada By Wyndham in Fargo, Buckhouse said.
Voter participation appears high on a state level as well, according to North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who said that as of Monday afternoon the state's 53 counties had mailed out more than 196,000 ballots, of which about 140,000, or about 70%, had been completed and returned to counties.
Statewide, the public can monitor how many completed ballots have been returned on the Secretary of State's website..
Jaeger said when all ballots are counted statewide, the number could eclipse the 175,303 ballots cast in the June 2012 election, which he said was notable for high voter participation.
Buckhouse and Jaeger said they have heard from voters unhappy with the mail-only aspect of this June's election, but they said they have also heard from people who said they were happy to vote by mail, stating they found it convenient and stress-free.
"I look at the number of requests (for ballots) and it's so much higher than these other elections, so certainly people are responding," Jaeger said.