Fargo, Cass County reject in-person polling site


FARGO — Cass County commissioners and the Fargo City Commission both rejected on Monday, May 4, opening up an in-person polling site for the June 9 election.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig requested the county and the city consider the change as the state primary, city commission and school board elections were still five weeks away and said without it he thought turnout would be "extremely low."

He said it would mostly hurt the 18-to-24-year-old age group. City Attorney Erik Johnson said if a law change was approved the city could still have the site.

Gehrig couldn't get a second to his motion from other city commissioners to have such a site.


County commissioners, meanwhile, also didn't support the polling site at their meeting Monday after County Finance Director Mike Montplaisir, who oversees elections in the county, said it was a public health issue with coronavirus cases still on the rise here and finding poll workers would be a problem.

He said voters might like to vote in person, but poll workers sitting there for 13 hours would have to "face everyone that comes in." He added that keeping surfaces disinfected would also be a problem.

"There's no way to social distance," he said.

When asked by Commissioner Ken Pawluk who would be disenfranchised by having only mail-in ballots, Montplaisir replied, "nobody."

He said 80,000 applications for mail-in ballots had been sent to Cass County residents by the Secretary of State's office, including to those turning 18 by June 9, and that most of the counties that have only mail-in elections see more voters than ever.

Montplaisir also said it was illegal to do it as state law requires polling sites to be set up 64 days before an election. He also didn't think the city could do it on their own.

County Commission Chairman Chad Peterson said to change it now would only be "confusing" and that a "consistent message" that people can vote only by mail-in ballot was needed.

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