Building North Dakota voters’ confidence in their election system and their knowledge of how to use it will be a focus going into the 2024 elections, Secretary of State Michael Howe said during a stop in Minot Wednesday.
“Our elections can be trusted,” Howe said. “We want people to understand and know the process. If they understand it and know it and see it, then they trust the process more.”
The office has produced new guides for voters and is working on utilizing a video platform to add to the availability of information. Some improvements are coming to the Secretary of State website in March, but a complete overhaul is planned before the 2026 election. Howe said the Legislature approved funding to contract with a new vendor to replace an existing website that he described as “clunky” in areas.
“The whole point of it is to be transparent. I would argue it’s not that transparent because it’s hard to utilize,” he said.
The overhaul will make the online system not only more user-friendly for voters but also for candidates, Howe said.
Additionally, the North Dakota Auditor’s Office had contracted an outside auditor to audit the state’s voting system, and that review found North Dakota’s processes to be very secure, Howe said. However, concerns about election security across the country have prompted more interest by some citizens in tracking the election process.
The Secretary of State’s Office is developing guidelines for people who wish to observe at the polls, said Erika White, the office’s elections director. The guidelines will describe the rules at polling locations, explain the function of the different equipment and provide other information to give people a base of knowledge before going to the polls to observe.
The Secretary of State and Ward County Auditor’s Office also are looking to increase awareness among military personnel regarding how to vote. White said they should vote in the state where they pay state income taxes to avoid impacting their state residency. Those who vote locally rather than absentee voting in their home states need to understand they are changing residency. College students also can have residency affected by their voting decisions.
White said the Department of Transportation plans to hold mobile clinics on the reservations to assist tribal members in updating their voter IDs. Some mail-ballot counties also are looking at updating their processes to better ensure all eligible voters receive their ballot applications, she said.
“We want people to be able to vote,” Howe said, noting the absentee voting process has ID requirements just as the in-person polls do. “People should be able to vote the way they want to vote and trust that the process is secure and accurate regardless of how they cast their votes.”
People who present at the polls without the proper ID can fill out a ballot and have it set aside. Those individuals have 13 days to provide their county auditor’s offices with updated IDs so the set-aside ballots can be counted by the canvassing boards. However, election officials advise newly naturalized citizens or residents whose addresses have changed to update their IDs before heading to the polls.
Howe said letters will be sent to individuals in the Department of Transportation’s identification file who are not citizens to remind them to get new, free IDs if naturalized before the elections.
The primary election will be June 11 and the general election Nov. 5.