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House deals with first batch of election bills

The Legislature will be looking at around 40 bills dealing with elections.

The House has so far passed a few, and killed a few.

The House has okayed a bill to limit early voting dates to 9 days before Election Day. It  impacts the early voting precincts.

"Although we want early voting, we don't want to draw it out for too long of a time," said Rep. Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks). "The other issue is staffing all the locations for that period of time. This bill leaves lotys of time to vote."

The vote was 78 to 13 to approve the measure. It now goes to the Senate.

The House also approved a measure prohibiting local election officials from accepting non-public funds for election operations.

The House rejected a measure that would have required scanned images of ballots to be made public on the Secretary of State’s Website, and would have banned electronic voting.

Only paper ballots would be allowed.

Rep. Greg Stemen (R-Fargo) said North Dakota ranks at or near the top in terms of election security – so the measure isn’t necessary.

"As members of this body make efforts to work with North Dakota officials to stay ahead of the election integrity curve, in turn strengthening our position as the best state in the country in running elections, we must not allow potential risks to outweigh any perceived reward," Stemen said.

That bill failed 76 to 15.

And the House rejected a proposal to allow a candidate for local office to have a party designation on the ballot.

That designation would be optional.

Rep. Austen Schauer (R-West Fargo) said the purpose of the measure is transparency and voter education.

"How many times have we been asked, 'What do you know about this candidate?'" Schauer said. "Sometimes we know, and sometimes we don't. This helps."

But Rep. Mary Schneider (D-Fargo) said the House Government and Veteran Affairs Committee heard a lot of testimony against it from local elected officials.

"Cities and counties have thrived without identifying party and politics," Schneider said. "Many viable residents will not run for local offices, chhoing to keep their beliefs and party affiliations private."

Schneider said it's difficult to get people to serve in small communities.

"This will make it worse," Schneider said.

The bill failed on a 55 to 36 vote.

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