In 2017, the North Dakota Legislature was asked to fund new voting machines.

The Legislature declined. And that means North Dakota is using the same voting system it purchased back in 2004.

"That's a long life span for technology," said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum.

Silrum said the current machines use the Windows 7 operating system. Windows no longer supports that system, and Silrum said the counties have had to cannibalize their existing machines to have some that still work.

Prairie Public file

In North Dakota, we’re seeing a trend toward fewer polling places.

"That's been a trend since the 1950s," said Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum. "Even in 1980, we had over 1200 polling places. In 2016, we had just over 400."

Silrum said a big reason for that has been the rising costs of elections.

"Not only do you have poll workers that must be in every polling location,  you also have voting machines," Silrum said. "You also have assistive voting technology for people with disabilities to vote privately and independently."

Secretary of State's office

Secretary of State Al Jaeger is hoping the state Senate will restore funding for new voting machines and new electronic poll books.

Jaeger proposed a $6 million expenditure to replace the voting machines, as well as another $4 million to have electronic poll books in all the counties. But the House nixed both items.

Jaeger said the current voting machines were purchased in 2004 as part of the federal Help America Vote Act. He said the counties have had to cannibalize existing machines for parts to keep some of the machines running.

Legislative committee looking at Voter ID law tweaks

Jan 27, 2017
Courtesy ND Legislature

The Legislature will be considering some changes to North Dakota’s “Voter ID” laws that supporters say should be acceptable to the courts.

A federal judge struck down the law – saying it created an undue burden for Native Americans.

The old law used to allow a “voter affidavit” for any voter who didn’t have an ID. That part of the law was removed in the 2013 Session. But because Judge Daniel Hovland said North Dakota didn’t have a “fail safe” way to let individuals without ID vote, the state allowed the affidavits in 2016.

House rejects money for new voting machines

Jan 25, 2017
Courtesy ND Secretary of State

The state House has rejected a measure to buy new voting machines.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger had asked for a $9 million appropriation to replace the current machines – which he says were already obsolete when the state bought them back in 2003. Money to buy them came from the “Help America Vote Act” – but Jaeger says that federal money was a one-time appropriation.

Courtesy ND Secretary of State

North Dakota’s Secretary of State says it’s time to replace the state’s voting machines.

Al Jaeger has asked the 2017 Legislature Jaeger has asked for a $9 million appropriation for that. He says the current machines were first used in 2004.

"Even at that time, though the equipment came in fancy new boxes, the technology was already aged," Jaeger said. "We're now at a point where the voting system is not being supported any more."

Jaeger said counties have had to cannibalize some of their devices for parts, to keep some machines running.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said it’s time to replace the state’s voting machines.

And he’ll be asking the 2017 Legislature to pay for them.

Jaeger said the current machines were purchased in 2004, to comply with the “Help America Vote Act.” And he said at that time, those weren't the most up to date devices.

"But everybody in the nation was buying election equipment," Jaeger said. "We had to do that. And qwe had certain deadlines to meet."

With less than two weeks to go before the June primary, some North Dakotans are taking advantage of early voting options – such as absentee ballots.

The primary will be held June 14th.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger said as of Thursday, June 2nd, 17,454 people have cast absentee ballots.

"The requests for absentee ballots numbered almost 37,000," Jaeger said. "We have a fairly good return."

Jaeger says some counties are conducting “ballot by mail,” and some counties are offering early voting precincts.

Jaeger: ND needs new voting machines

Dec 18, 2015

Secretary of State Al Jaeger says North Dakota needs new voting machines.

Jaeger says the state is using voting technology developed when Congress passed the “Help America Vote Act” in 2001. And he says federal money was available to the states to implement that act. But Jaeger says that federal money won’t be available this time around.

The state Senate has voted to study voter registration.

North Dakota is the only state in the union that does not require voter registration. But the law says you must show a valid ID with your residence address on it if you want to vote. Sen. Richard Marcellais (D-Belcourt) says most voters use a driver’s license – but the Department of Transportation does not verify the addresses on those licenses.