FARGO — Fargo city commissioners voted unanimously on Monday night, Feb. 22, to begin work with the county to continue to allow at-home or mail-in voting in the city and county in upcoming elections.
Commissioner Arlette Preston said the state legislature passed a law in 2017 to allow at-home voting, and 33 of 50 counties in the state have the option for ballot applications to be mailed to all voters in every election. If they return the application, a ballot is then sent before Election Day.
It's similar to what was previously called absentee voting, under which people could vote early if they weren't able to make it to polls on Election Day.
In some counties, they have robust mail-in programs with few voting locations countywide, and Preston said participation in the 33 counties that have the at-home option had 31.7% of voters participating in the June 2018 elections for city commissions, school boards, and other local and statewide offices. That compares to 17% in counties where there wasn't a voting at home option.
In Fargo, she said, only 11% of voters participated in local voting in June of 2018. In Cass County, voter turnout climbed from 13% in 2018 to 20% this past June.
In a letter to the commissioners before the meeting, she said in 2018 in Montana, as another example, they had 61% voter participation in counties with at-home voting and just 19% in other counties.
Preston told commissioners Monday night that voting at home is a county decision, but the city contracts with the county to administer the city elections.
Her motion to have at least one commissioner and also city staff work with the county to make in-home voting more permanent was passed 5-0.
The motion also included implementing the at-home voting starting in June of 2022, with a decision hopefully reached by this coming June to allow plenty of time for planning.
Her motion stated that on Election Day there must be at least one site for in-person voting, additional in-person sites for early voting as was done this past election and secure drop boxes for ballots in the city.
Preston suggested the success of the process in the past election be studied to see if any problems arose.