League of Women Voters serves as election observers

Katie Christensen, left, and Ishauna Jacobberger are observing elections in Fargo and West Fargo on July 11, 2024. (Photos provided)

A group of volunteers with the League of Women Voters of North Dakota is keeping a watchful eye on the state’s polling sites this election season.

The goal of the program, dubbed the “election observers,” is to make sure that North Dakota polling sites are functioning properly — and when problems are spotted, to make recommendations to election regulators on how to address them.

Do voters seem to receive clear instructions from election workers, for example? Are there legible signs instructing them where to go? Does voting seem to be going smoothly, or are there long wait times? Is anyone being turned away? If so, how come?

“We aren’t necessarily there to fix those problems, but we are there to observe and document them and hopefully find ways to resolve them in the future,” said Mary Tintes, who serves as vice president of the League of Women Voters of North Dakota.

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For more coverage of the June 11 primary, visit our North Dakota Election 2024 page.

There are observers signed up for shifts at voting locations in Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Mandan, Dickinson, Jamestown, Wahpeton and Devils Lake, Tintes said.

“I would imagine we’ve got anywhere from 30 to 50 volunteers across the state,” she said.

Each volunteer has to complete an online training before participating. They also receive an information packet in the mail, Tintes said.

All participants are instructed to introduce themselves to election workers and explain why they’re there. They also are given name tags that identify them as election observers.

The shifts last about three to four hours. Volunteers can work as many shifts as they want — Tintes, for example, said she’ll be visiting several polling sites.

The election observers program started in 2022 following complaints that new Americans were being turned away from polling sites in Cass County because they couldn’t provide proof of their citizenship, Tintes said. An attorney general’s opinion ultimately found this practice in violation of the state’s voting laws.

The Legislature has since changed the law to require voters to provide identification that reflects their citizenship status. Secretary of State Michael Howe did outreach at naturalization ceremonies to educate new citizens about the requirement to vote.

Voters who fail to bring the right documentation to the polls can still fill out a ballot. However, they’ll have to visit their county auditor’s office with proper ID within 13 days of the election. In the meantime, their ballot will be set aside in a sealed envelope.

The election observers will be paying attention to how the new law is implemented, Tintes said. 

The League of Women Voters will announce its findings after the election, she said.

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