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Port: District 8 mess illustrates the problems with early voting

Early voting diminishes our ability to address situations where a candidate may become ineligible after voting commences. It can also lead to voters regretting an early vote.

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MINOT, N.D. — I have always been skeptical of early voting. I like voting, on Election Day, in a gymnasium, or a church fellowship hall with my fellow citizens. I like standing in line and eavesdropping on some of the last-minute deliberations friends and siblings and married couples engage in before voting.

I like getting a ballot from a former teacher of mine, or maybe an old neighbor, and taking an "I Voted" sticker on my way out.

But this year, I voted early, sending in my ballot the day it showed up in my mailbox.

There's a pandemic on, in case you hadn't heard, and no really competitive races on my ballot.

I live in an odd-numbered district, so my local lawmakers aren't on the ballot this cycle. There is no U.S. Senate race in North Dakota, the U.S. House and gubernatorial competitions are (with all due respect to the challengers) looking to be blowouts, the two statewide ballot measures are straight-forward questions, and I've heard all I need to from the down-ballot candidates.


But then Republican state House candidate Dave Andahl died , leaving behind a quandary for voters in District 8, and it came home to me, again, why early voting is problematic.

The assumption many made when news of Andahl's tragic passing broke was that he'd stay on the ballot and, if elected posthumously, the local NDGOP district would fill the vacancy. That, after all, is the long-established process for filling vacancies in the Legislature.

But Andahl's death didn't create a vacancy in the Legislature. He hadn't been elected yet.

Everyone in state politics and the news media seems to have overlooked a provision in Article IV, Section 5 of the state Constitution , which sets out the eligibility conditions for someone running for the Legislature. Among them is a requirement that they are a "qualified elector" on Election Day .

Something Andahl cannot be.

Here's where early voting makes things tricky. The state Constitution refers to "election day," but elections happen on more than just one day now. In practice, it's more like "election month."

In the Andahl situation, which day is "election day?" Is it the day voting commences, when voters were casting ballots with Andahl's name on them? Is it the day voting ends in November?

Early voting diminishes our ability to address situations where a candidate may become ineligible after voting commences.


It can also lead to voters regretting an early vote.

In North Carolina, in a U.S. Senate race that may decide control of that legislative chamber, Democrat Cal Cunningham has been embroiled in a sex scandal. Yet many voters have already cast their ballots for him.

Maybe the scandal doesn't change your opinion, or maybe it does. Either way, if you had already cast your ballot, you're out of luck.

To comment on this article, visit

Rob Port, founder of, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at .

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port column sig
Rob Port

Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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