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'Not enough space': Voters in Cass County waited in line for more than an hour at several locations

The longest wait time in Fargo was reported to be 90 minutes.

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Voters wait patiently in line to cast their ballots at the West Acres Mall on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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FARGO — Wait times at Cass County polling places swelled less than two hours before polls closed Tuesday, Nov. 8, causing long lines to form and wait times to exceed 90 minutes, according to polling information provided by election officials and eyewitness reports.

As of 6 p.m., long lines had formed at the Fargodome, West Acres Mall and Calvary United Methodist Church in southwest Fargo. According to a dashboard provided by election officials, average wait times in Cass County rose to 52 minutes, roughly double the time from earlier in the day.

Cass County Election Administrator Murray Nash said wait times were due to “a fairly high turnout.” Vote centers vary in size and some had a harder time with the influx of voters in the late afternoon, he added.

Nash also acknowledged that some polling places ran out of traditional paper ballots. While voters still had the option to vote using a voting machine, he said some voters refused to use them and paper ballots were moved from other locations to meet their needs.

Bob Henderson, Cass County Director of Information Technology and an on-site official at the Fargodome, said there simply weren't enough spaces for the throng of late-afternoon voters to cast ballots.

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"We ran into snags with available spaces to vote," Henderson said. "Our vote centers were overrun a bit there, and we're looking at a better solution in the future."

Cass County had 11 polling locations for 131,950 eligible voters.

Henderson said there were no other issues with voting outside of the turnout. He credited poll workers for their efficiency and voters for their patience.

Henderson acknowledged that some people left without voting after seeing the long lines, “which was their own personal choice,” he said.

Hyatt Martineau and his parents, Norm and Tina, said they witnessed people leaving without voting after seeing the long lines at the Fargodome, but that election officials told those waiting that they still had a right to vote.

“When I first got here, they told us it was about a 90-minute wait,” Hyatt said. “A bunch of people left right away, but they (election officials) assured them that if they were in line by 7 o’clock, they would still get the chance to vote.”

Another voter, Andrea Denault, was outside the Fargo Civic Center talking with a friend about an hour after arriving to vote. When she arrived, the line to vote wrapped around the corner of the building and wove through partitions inside the Civic Center.

“The outside line was huge and the inside line was even longer,” Denault said.

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Denault said she’s always made a point to vote in person because she likes seeing what the turnout is like on Election Day, but that might change after this year.

“After these past few cycles, maybe I will just start voting early, if anything to get out of peoples’ way,” she said.

Janna Farley, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, said she hasn't heard any major complaints from voters in Fargo or the state as a whole. She said it's disappointing that voters walked away from long lines without voting and said voters should consider early voting options in future elections.

"It's a great way to have your voice be heard," she said.

Nash said it’s too early to postulate any necessary changes to Cass County elections and would only come after gathering information from election workers.

Wait times at polling locations throughout Cass County and Clay County varied earlier in the day, election officials reported.

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Voters line up to cast their ballots at the West Acres Mall on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

At 11:30 a.m., the longest wait was reported at the Calvary United Methodist Church, where voters were waiting an hour to cast their ballots, according to Cass County's wait time dashboard. However, those wait times had increased in the later afternoon to as long as 90 minutes. Located in the residential Osgood neighborhood, the church had a line out the door not long after polls opened at 7 a.m.

The wait time at Horace Fire and Rescue was also getting longer as Election Day progressed, reaching 75 minutes as polls closed at 7 p.m.

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Anybody in line when polls closed should be allowed to vote, according to election laws.

The Clay County Auditor's Office reported that wait times in Moorhead were no more than a few minutes by mid-morning Tuesday. There are 11 voting locations in Moorhead with several more in rural Clay County.

Kris Kerzman is the social media manager for InForum.
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