Forum editorial: ND early balloting is a success
North Dakota and Cass County are blessed with two of the most competent election officials in the nation: Secretary of State Al Jaeger and county Auditor Mike Montplaisir. The same can't be said of Cass County lawmakers who want to mess up a mode...
North Dakota and Cass County are blessed with two of the most competent election officials in the nation: Secretary of State Al Jaeger and county Auditor Mike Montplaisir. The same can't be said of Cass County lawmakers who want to mess up a modern election system that works very well.
Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, is primary sponsor of legislation that would cut early voting from 15 days to seven days before the election. Others on the bill are Reps. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, Kim Koppelman,R-West Fargo, and Blair Thoreson,R-Fargo. They apparently believe early voting is too long because people still have the absentee ballot option.
What? That makes no sense.
Early voting attracted 20,000 Cass County voters in 2008. The only problem with early voting in the county is that there was only a single location, at a motel on 13th Avenue South. More people likely would have voted early if the city or county had another voting location or two.
Early voting and absentee balloting surely are related, but one does not supplant the other. Both methods are voter friendly. The purpose of offering citizens voting options in a busy world is to make it easier for voters to exercise the franchise. Clearly, 20,000 residents of Cass County (and thousands in the other locations in the state where early voting was allowed) embraced the option. Of course, early voters take a chance, as do absentee voters: The election landscape could change after they vote. But it's their choice. Legislators with ulterior motives shouldn't take it away.
The proposed change seems to be driven by local lawmakers who believe early voting makes it more difficult for them to campaign. Too bad. Voting systems are supposed to serve voters, not political candidates. Limited early voting (and it is limited in North Dakota compared to options in other states) fits modern lifestyles and serves the desire of citizens to participate in the election process.
The other bill in Carlson's bag of political tricks is a restrictive affidavit requirement to prove residency. This is little more than an attempt to make it difficult, if not impossible, for college students who live in residence halls to vote. The current system could use slight refinement, said Montplaisir. But there is no evidence of fraud among students who call Fargo home during their school years. Carlson's bill (along with Boehning, Koppelman and Thoreson) appears to be overkill with one purpose in mind: reduce voting by students, who tend to vote Democratic.
Both bills - restricting early voting and putting a hurdle in front of students - would, in effect, disenfranchise many citizens. Carlson and his allies are advancing solutions where there are no problems.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board