Port: Please don't vote based on skin color

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
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MINOT, N.D. — It's depressing that this needs to be said in America, in 2020, but it does.

Please don't vote based on skin color.

Recently my fellow columnist, Jim Shaw, wrote a piece advertising the candidacy of four Democratic-NPL candidates for elected office in North Dakota this cycle under the headline, "A shameful streak may soon end in ND."

The "shameful streak" in question? In North Dakota, since statehood, there "has never been an African American ever elected to statewide office or to the state legislature," Shaw writes.

This line of reasoning is problematic.


For one thing, he gives us little evidence to support his conclusion that this is a shameful streak aside from the fact that voters in our state have never elected a Black person to the Legislature or statewide office. How many Black candidates have run for those offices in the past? Shaw doesn't trouble himself with that question. I think it's safe to say that historically there haven't been very many.

It's difficult for North Dakota voters to elect a Black person if there is no Black option on the ballot.

For another, think of the position Shaw's logic puts us in. If voters decide that this slate of candidates Shaw has endorsed is not to their liking, are they acting shamefully? Shaw believes they are, but maybe they just prefer the other candidate's approach to governing?

Or, in the case of one of the women Shaw endorsed, maybe they have a problem with the candidate's eligibility. Travisia Martin is campaigning for Insurance Commissioner. She claims she has lived in North Dakota since 2015, satisfying our state's five-year residency requirement for statewide office, but she also acknowledges having cast a ballot in Nevada in the 2016 election, something which, if done legally, requires residency in that state.

If voters cast their ballots against Martin because they believe she isn't eligible to hold the office she's campaigning for, or if they think she voted illegally in Nevada, is that a shameful, racist decision? After all, her opponent Jon Godfread is (brace yourselves) literally the biggest white man to hold elected office in the United States .

Or maybe skin color shouldn't matter.

If you like any of the candidates Shaw endorses, you should vote for them. That's your right.

But don't insult those candidates, or demean the exercise of your franchise, by casting a ballot based on skin color.


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

Opinion by 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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