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June 6: Voter Registration

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Leading up to the June 11 primary, we're celebrating democracy in action from North Dakota history, large and small.

North Dakota is the only state without voter registration. It was abolished in 1951. In a story before the change, the Minot Daily News and Optic Reporter reported on the local requirements: “… to be eligible to register as a voter, one must have lived in North Dakota for a year, including a six-month residence in Minot and thirty days in the precinct.”

In a 2015 review of North Dakota’s voter registration history, the Secretary of State’s office explained that the roster of registered voters “was available for public review for one week followed by a meeting at which eligible voters who believed they should be included on the roster or knew of people on the roster who should not be included could make a case to the board. Additionally, any eligible voter left off the roster who appeared at the polls was allowed to vote by signing an affidavit.”

Arguments for repealing voter registration included an analysis from a legislative committee stating registration was " ... cumbersome and of limited effect. "

The repeal of voter registration passed with a unanimous vote in the Senate and only five dissenting votes in the House. Since the repeal, there have been a few notable efforts to bring it back. The first and closest effort was HB 1101, which passed the 1975 Legislative Assembly, but vetoes by Governor Art Link.

While North Dakota voter registration isn’t coming back anytime soon, the legislature has approved numerous voter identification laws. In 2003 the legislature passed a voter ID law requiring every voter to show identification before receiving a ballot.

In 2013, the legislature removed the affidavit system, and it also required Native Americans to identify a residential address. That provision was challenged in Brakebill v. Jaeger. The tribes and the Secretary of State settled the case in 2020. The agreement ensures that tribal IDs and tribally designated street addresses are valid.

If you do vote on June 11, you will need one piece of identification: a North Dakota driver’s license, a North Dakota ID card, a tribal ID card or tribal letter, or a long-term care certificate.

Dakota Datebook by Ann Alquist


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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