North Dakota lawmakers debate city election date
BISMARCK—Moving local elections to November may make it harder for voters to keep track of races, a North Dakota lawmaker said Tuesday, Aug. 29.
The interim Government Administration Committee began examining the possibility of moving city and other local elections from June to November during a meeting at the state Capitol Tuesday. City elections in North Dakota are held on the second Tuesday in June in each even-numbered year, coinciding with primary elections for state and federal offices, while general elections are held in November during each even-numbered year.
The resolution requesting the legislative study said conducting local elections at the same time as the primary may cause voter confusion. Moreover, newly elected city officials have only about two months to get up to speed before cities have to prepare preliminary budgets.
Sen. Ronald Sorvaag, R-Fargo, said the idea is worth studying, but he cautioned against burying local elections on the November ballot.
"People can only keep track of so many" races, he said. "An informed voter is extremely important."
Stephanie Dassinger, deputy director and staff attorney for the North Dakota League of Cities, said moving city elections to November may increase voter turnout, but she acknowledged potential issues like creating a ballot that's too large for current voting machines.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger doubted the change would save money, given that there would still be a June primary.
"In my opinion, it would be a wash," he said.
School boards are required to hold an election each year between April 1 and June 30 "to fill any vacancies," and those elections may be held in conjunction with a city that's located in the school district, according to a Legislative Council memo.
Township electors generally hold annual meetings on the third Tuesday in March and may elect officers then. But a special meeting must be called if the annual meeting is not held at that time, and a special meeting may be called to fill vacancies in township offices, according to Legislative Council.
Wendy Underhill, program manager for the National Conference of State Legislatures, said "most states either set municipal elections sometime other than the fall, or do not mandate across all jurisdictions when they are to hold their municipal elections," according to 2014 testimony cited by Legislative Council. But some states do hold local elections in November in even-numbered or odd-numbered years.