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North Dakota Senate passes bill intended to make voting easier for college students

The Senate voted 47-0 pass House Bill 1447 on Tuesday, March 30.

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A long line of voters in Grand Forks wait to cast their vote in the closing hours of early voting at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks in 2020. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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The North Dakota Senate unanimously passed legislation Tuesday, March 30, designed to make voting easier for college students.

The Senate voted 47-0 to pass House Bill 1447 , which – if approved by Gov. Doug Burgum – will allow the state’s public colleges and universities to issue students a printable document containing “the institution's letterhead or seal using a self-service process.” Students will be able to request the document themselves if they need it to vote.

Voters who have a valid North Dakota driver’s license but may not have an updated address can bring a utility bill or some other form of verification to prove they live in the district in which they are attempting to vote. Students, however, might not have such a document, and HB 1447 addresses that void.

“These students are often first-time voters with their first driver's license, listing their parents' address. This bill provides a path for students to vote,” said Sen. Jay Elkin, R-Taylor.

The document must include the student's legal name, current residential address in the state, the date the residential address was established and date of birth. When issuing the document to students, the school would also provide each student with information regarding voter eligibility requirements.

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The students will still need to be North Dakota residents (with a valid ID) and have lived in their new district for at least 30 days before they can actually vote.

During the floor session Tuesday, one senator questioned whether the form could open up cases of voter fraud. For example: Could a student use the document to vote in their college town and then use their driver’s license to also vote back home? Elkin noted that the state’s central voter ID updates every 10 minutes, making that kind of fraud virtually impossible.

“Mostly, students are trying to do the right thing,” Sen. Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, said. “If they choose to participate in our state and become a resident, then we should encourage them. But I think we need to step out and really try to make them informed voters.”

The amended version of the bill had the support of the North Dakota Student Association and passed the House, 87-7, on Feb. 24.

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk for his consideration.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Sydney Mook has been the managing editor at the Herald since April 2021. In her role she edits and assigns stories and helps reporters develop their work for readers.

Mook has been with the Herald since May 2018 and was first hired as the Herald's higher education reporter where she covered UND and other happenings in state higher education. She was later promoted to community editor in 2019.


For story pitches contact her at smook@gfherald.com or call her at 701-780-1134.
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