Port: North Dakota needs voter registration

Voters cast their ballots June 6, 2016, at the Baymont Inn in south Fargo during early voting for the state primary. Forum file photo
Forum file photo

MINOT, N.D. -- North Dakota is currently the only state in the union without voter registration.

Folks, it's time for that to change.

Our June primary, conducted entirely by mail because of the pandemic, went off without a hitch. That system has been in place for a while and was already used extensively in some jurisdictions. For 2020, it only needed to be scaled up for the entire state.

But that statewide balloting by mail exposed some problems, most of them related to our state's use of driver's license data for voting.

For the June vote, the Secretary of State's office sent out ballot applications to everyone in the Department of Transportation's database who has been issued a license or identification card. Unfortunately, that database had a lot of out-of-date data.


If your experience was like mine, you received some ballots at your residence for people who don't live there. I received a ballot application for a niece who hasn't lived at my address for over a decade.

According to a recent report , state Rep. David Monson, R-Osnabrock, said a constituent in his district received 17 ballot applications for past farm employees.

I asked Secretary of State Al Jaeger about this issue in May , and he was unconcerned, noting that anyone casting a ballot would have to provide the identification number from their DOT-issued credential. If the information didn't match up, they'd be contacted by their county auditor.

But the DOT issues licenses and identification cards to people who aren't eligible to vote. Citizenship isn't required to get a driver's license, but it is necessary to vote, so what protection do we have against those people using their state-issued identification to cast an illegal ballot?


"It certainly could happen and go undetected. Hopefully, non-citizens would know that they cannot vote," Jaeger told me in May.

That's not good enough.

Voter registration could fix these problems. We could require proof of citizenship, and residency, before registration is allowed. We could also remove inactive voters -- perhaps defined as someone who hasn't voted in two consecutive cycles? -- from the registration database.


Registering would also fix our very stupid open primary process, which currently lets Democrats help Republicans pick their candidates (and vice versa). If you want to help a political party choose their candidates in the primary, you should have to be a registered member of that party.

Democrats will sing their usual refrain about voter suppression, though they don't have a leg to stand on.

In 2018 the North Dakota Democratic-NPL ran bogus Facebook ads telling hunters they could lose their out-of-state licenses by casting a ballot .

In the current cycle, the Democrats have a candidate for insurance commissioner, Travisia Martin, who, in defending her eligibility for the 2020 ballot, seems to have confessed to voter fraud in Nevada .

Maybe we don't need to listen to them.

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

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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