Lawmakers float voter ID proposals

Grand Forks Herald

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Dakota lawmakers are proposing changes to the state’s voter identification law after some had problems casting a ballot in November.

The proposals come after the Legislature changed North Dakota’s voter identification law two years ago to do away with the voter affidavit process that allowed voters to cast a ballot without proper ID. A bill introduced last week by Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, would reverse that change and bring back affidavits.

“Let’s go back to the 2013 law and start from there,” Mock said.

But Rep. Randy Boehning, R-Fargo, said voter affidavits leave the state’s election system vulnerable to fraud. He’s sponsoring a bill that would allow citizens who don’t have an updated ID to use a change of address form, bill or bank statement that shows they’ve lived in that location for 30 days to vote. It would also clarify acceptable forms of ID, which wouldn’t include student identification certificates.

Neither proposal, House Bill 1333 or House Bill 1302, has been scheduled for a hearing.

Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger declined to comment until his office had a chance to review the proposals. He said there have been at least 25 bills introduced that “relate to some aspect of the election process,” including voter identification, administration and campaign finance.

Boehning’s bill was originally drafted by the Secretary of State’s office and slightly modified based on legislative feedback, Jaeger said.

Challenges

Mock, whose district includes the UND area, said his proposal comes in response to problems he heard about during Election Day. He said some college students were able to update their address on their student identification certificate on Election Day, as were non-students who updated their driver’s license during business hours.

“After 5 p.m., the DMV was closed,” Mock said, so some non-students who were unable to update their addresses were turned away. Some students also reported trouble at the polls.

Boehning said eliminating the student identification certificate, which is provided by the North Dakota University System, helps clarify that voters need identification showing their current address 30 days before the election.

Grand Forks County Auditor Debbie Nelson said she doesn’t want to go back to using voter affidavits. She said people could go to multiple precincts and cast a ballot using an affidavit, and the votes would count. Nelson said she wasn’t aware of people doing that, however.

“They may have to go to jail, but their vote is going to count,” Nelson said. “I have no idea if they did it or not. I guess we would never know.”

Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, previously said the criminal penalties for illegally filing an affidavit were enough of a deterrent for voter fraud.

Schneider said Thursday he’s working on a bill that would allow for provisional ballots. Unlike affidavits, provisional ballots wouldn’t be counted until eligibility was proven, Schneider said.

‘Treated equally’

Boehning said the language in his bill that allows people to use a U.S. Postal Service change of address form, bill or bank statement is meant to address voters who may have “fallen through the cracks.” His bill has the support of Assistant Minority Leader Sen. Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford.

Mock said he’s working on an amendment to Boehning’s bill that would allow someone with an ID from another state to vote if they could prove they are living in North Dakota and are otherwise eligible to vote here. He said that would require verification they aren’t voting in two states.

“We want to make sure that a student or anyone in Grand Forks or anywhere else in North Dakota is treated equally, whether their last address is Bismarck or Maple Grove, Minn.,” Mock said.

Boehning’s bill would also clarify that people could use an expired driver’s license or a long-term care certificate. A uniformed service member or qualified family member temporarily stationed away from their residence could use a current military ID card or passport under Boehning’s bill.

Boehning, the sponsor of the bill last session that eliminated voter affidavits, was also opposed to returning to that system.

“We have to show our ID for just about everything these days,” Boehning said.