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North Dakota election administrator: Prepare for long waits if hand counting advances

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Mike Moen

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(Prairie News Service) Petitions are being circulated for a potential ballot question in North Dakota that calls for the state to go back to counting votes by hand during elections. Administrators are not embracing the idea. 

Several provisions are being floated under the Election Integrity Act Initiative, and moving away from electronic machines for processing ballots is among them. 

Supporters contend that fixes are needed because they feel people have lost faith in elections. But Pierce County Auditor Karen Migler said the machines are effective in tabulating votes. 

PROMO 64J1 Map - North Dakota State Map - iStock - dk_photos

© iStock - dk_photos

She suggested the proposed change would be too risky compared with current methods. 

"Human error is possible," said Migler. "You'd have to probably count two, three times to come up with the same number."

For a small staff such as hers, Migler said they would be counting after a long day, and that results would be delayed. 

She said that could open the door to other criticism when it comes to election transparency. 

Backers of the idea acknowledge the likelihood of delays while arguing North Dakota could become a leader if the proposal advances. 

It's unclear if the petition drive will receive enough signatures to appear on the 2024 ballot.

Migler said those who are skeptical of electronic machines can always get a first-hand look to see how they operate. 

"We do check them beforehand and it's a public test," said Migler. "So, anybody can watch if they wish. We have so many ballots and then we have the results [and] what they should be, and the machines are right on."

Petition organizers have until February 12 to turn in enough signatures to get the issue on the primary ballot in 2024. 

Other provisions in the proposal include eliminating early voting and placing limitations on voting absentee. 

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.