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5 things to know today: Ballot error, Financial hurdles, Case denied, Inside look, Off-sale hours

A select rundown of stories found on InForum.

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Polling places will be open two weeks before Election Day, but at a limited capacity. WDAY file photo
Forum file photo
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1. Ballot error clouds Cass County soil supervisor race

Cass County residents who’ve already voted and those who show up at the polls Tuesday, Nov. 8, either have or will encounter a mistake on the ballot.

In the race for the somewhat obscure position of Cass County Soil Conservation District supervisor, ballots list two candidates for the position, and voters are instructed to “vote for no more than one name.”

But in actuality, the men are running for two different uncontested spots on the district's board and weren’t supposed to be pitted against each another on the ballot.

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Terry Hoffmann is running for another six-year term on the board, after his current term expired.

Warren Solberg was intending to run to fill out the remaining two years of an unexpired term, left vacant when Curt Knutson, district supervisor from Page, retired from the board effective February 2021.

“I've had people call me and say, ‘Why are you running against Warren?’ I say, ‘Really I’m not,’” Hoffmann said.

Brandy Madrigga, Cass County finance director, said her office is aware of the error on the ballot and that it will ultimately be up to the Cass County State’s Attorney’s Office to decide on a resolution.

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There should have been two Soil Conservation District seats listed on the ballot — the expired term and the unexpired term, she said.

However, the county was not notified that anyone was retiring or resigning their term early, she said.

The expired, six-year term that Hoffmann held is the race that’s on the ballot.

“I don't foresee any controversy coming out of it, but yeah, it's an unfortunate situation,” Madrigga said.

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Read more from The Forum's Robin Huebner

2. Analysis underscores financial hurdles for Native American, rural voters

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Nicole Donaghy, left, with Native Vote organizers Lydale Yazzie and Elliot Bannister at a get-out-the-vote event in 2018. Photo courtesy of Nicole Donaghy

A project that reviewed data relating to hurdles Native Americans face when it comes to voting underscores the challenges such communities, and rural communities in general, face when it comes to making their voices heard at the ballot box.

That's according to Nicole Donaghy, executive director of North Dakota Native Vote, a nonprofit formed in 2018 to advocate for Native Americans and to mobilize them on key issues.

Donaghy said a project that North Dakota Native Vote worked on with Mato Ohitika Analytics, a native-oriented data analysis company in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, confirmed a number of issues Native Americans often face when voting.

She said those hurdles include disparities when it comes to distances that must be traveled when trying to vote, either in person or by absentee ballot.

"There are obstacles, intentional or not," Donaghy said, noting that Sioux County, which is in southeastern North Dakota and is contained entirely within the Standing Rock reservation, has only one polling site, which is in Fort Yates.

"If you live in Porcupine, if you live in Cannon Ball ... any of these outlying communities, you're going to have to drive a distance to get to the polls on Nov. 8," said Donaghy, who noted that the recent analysis by Mato Ohitika Analytics showed it would cost more than $1,000 per 100 voters to make the round-trip journey from Porcupine to Fort Yates.

"It's not fair when you have limited income and you have to choose between gas money and food for the week. Having a polling site that is local, that people can walk to, like there have been in the past, does certainly make a difference," said Donaghy, who noted her organization has been doing what it can to convince local election officials to increase the number of polling sites.

Read more from The Forum's David Olson

3. U.S. Supreme Court denies case of Mahnomen highway engineer stopping trucks

Road construction
Get ready to see lots of construction cones in the area -- officials have big plans for the region, including facelifts for Interstate 94 in West Fargo and Fargo and Main Avenue in downtown Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The highest court in the land won’t hear claims by a construction company that a west-central county department head violated its rights when truck drivers were stopped for ignoring weight restrictions on roads.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied a petition by Central Specialties Inc. (CSI) to argue its case against Mahnomen County Highway Engineer Jonathan Large. Documents did not say why the hearing was denied.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the case.

The move by the Supreme Court means previous rulings in Large’s favor have been upheld, including one by U.S. District Judge Michael Davis in Minnesota to dismiss the case in 2020 before a trial was held.

CSI claimed in a federal lawsuit filed in 2017 that Large illegally detained two of the company’s trucks on July 18, 2017, as they drove on Minnesota County Highway 10.

Large previously told CSI not to use the road since it wasn’t a haul road and the shoulder work wasn’t completed, according to Davis’ opinion which detailed facts in the case. The opinion also noted Large’s determination that Highway 10 was in poor condition and couldn’t handle the weight of the trucks.

CSI had a contract with the Minnesota Department of Transportation to do work on Minnesota Highway 59 and wanted to use Highway 10 to avoid other ongoing construction, court documents said. The road was open to trucks with an axle weight of up to 5 tons, but the Mahnomen County Commission reduced the weight for the road to 5-ton total weight at Large’s request, the opinion said.

CSI asked Transportation Department project manager Ross Hendrickson to designate Highway 10 and another county highway usable or direct the company not to drive on them, according to court documents.

Read more from The Forum's April Baumgarten

4. A look inside Fargo's homeless help center facing criticism from a city leader

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Leah Siewert-Oberg, program coordinator for housing, talks about a shirt giveaway in the former Fargo Police Department's evidence room Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022, in what is now the Downtown Engagement Center, a place that provides services to homeless people.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

Shortly after dawn on Thursday, Nov. 3, Leah Siewert-Oberg took down the closed sign and unlocked the front door to the Downtown Engagement Center. Three people, shivering with a morning chill, rushed in and were greeted by cheerful “good mornings.”

Before she could put on a fresh pot of coffee, the doorbell rang. Twice. And then the telephone rang. Someone had questions about housing. Before Siewert-Oberg could catch her breath, the telephone rang again.

“I’m the only one here so far this morning,” Siewert-Oberg said. She’s a program coordinator at the center that opened a little more than a year ago after it was converted from being a place to isolate homeless people with COVID-19, and before that, a police station.

“This is a difficult job, but the people here, they just sucked me in,” Siewert-Oberg said. “Our whole goal is to have people come here so we can get them the services they need.”

Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen

5. Empire Liquors in Fargo reduces off-sale hours in hopes to curb overconsumption

Building downtown with white sign on door that reads "Off sale closes at 11 p.m."
Empire Liquors on Nov. 4, 2022.
Melissa Van Der Stad / The Forum

Off-sale liquor is no longer sold after 11 p.m. at Empire Liquors’ downtown location.

The establishment’s ownership has voluntarily halted late-night off-sales for the near future to determine what effect, if any, it has on the number of overserved bar patrons downtown, according to Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney.

The voluntary hour reduction, made in collaboration with the City of Fargo and Fargo police, comes after concern over small liquor bottles was raised at city meetings as part of a larger, ongoing discussion about safety downtown .

Off-sale liquor was previously sold until 2 a.m. The Empire Tavern bar next door will remain open till 2 p.m.

Dan Helmen, a downtown resident who works in the Empire establishments, said that downtown gets increasingly chaotic between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m.

“There’s a lot of police presence,” Helmen said.

While the colder weather may slow things down, Helmen still feels that this change, however temporary, is a good one.

Read more from The Forum's Melissa Van Der Stad

Our newsroom occasionally reports stories under a byline of "staff." Often, the "staff" byline is used when rewriting basic news briefs that originate from official sources, such as a city press release about a road closure, and which require little or no reporting. At times, this byline is used when a news story includes numerous authors or when the story is formed by aggregating previously reported news from various sources. If outside sources are used, it is noted within the story.
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A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
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