CROSBY, N.D. (PNS) – North Dakota’s county auditors are busy this fall preparing property tax bills. But they also have elections in the back of their minds, and some wonder if the challenges they faced in 2020 will resurface next spring.
The 2020 vote saw North Dakota shift to all mail-in voting for last year’s primary due to the pandemic. Offices also reported a harder time recruiting poll workers because of health risks tied to COVID. Divide County Auditor Gayle Jastrzebski says amid another COVID wave, it’s unclear how much the crisis will impact voting for next June’s primary.
She noted that even though there was a slight return to normal last November, a lot of ballots were still mailed in.
She says that has her wondering about preparing again for strong demand for absentee ballots. In last year’s primary, the Secretary of State waived a requirement that counties keep at least one polling location open, with all 53 adopting the mail-in approach.
The office says it doesn’t anticipate a similar move next spring. Meanwhile, Jastrzebski acknowledges older poll workers might opt to sit out the June primary if case levels remain high.
Grand Forks County Auditor Debbie Nelson says getting enough people to work at polling locations remains a concern, especially if the pandemic stretches well into 2022. She says it’s not just hard on administrators.
It could also discourage some people from casting their ballot if staffs are overwhelmed.
Past research from the Brennan Center for Justice has found that long lines can have an impact on voter turnout. Nelson says fortunately for her, she was able to address poll-worker shortages in 2020 through a national website that helps with recruitment in each state.
She hopes it can be effective next year as well.