Home » Backers of North Dakota Petition to Ban Voting Machines Cite Potential Fraud; Official Says Fears Unfounded
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Backers of North Dakota Petition to Ban Voting Machines Cite Potential Fraud; Official Says Fears Unfounded

BISMARCK — A proposed ballot measure submitted Tuesday, Aug. 29, in North Dakota would heavily alter how the state runs its elections and seeks to provide “election integrity” through an “auditable voting system” that uses only paper ballots, eliminating the use of voting machines.

Proponents of the petition believe banning machines would empower voters by allowing them to verify an election’s results and halt potential fraud through a paper-only method.

A disability advocate says the petition overlooks many North Dakotans who rely on voting machines to cast their ballots independently, while a state official asserts that many of the petitioners’ fears are unfounded.

The “Election Integrity Act Initiative” seeks to amend the North Dakota Constitution to create “election integrity” by providing a “method of verifying election results and providing a reasonable process for recalling elected officials,” according to the petition.

Petitioners will need to gather 31,164 signatures in order for the measure to be placed on the ballot.

Lydia Gessel, who chairs the committee that submitted the petition, said removing all electronic voting machines will ensure fair and transparent elections by preventing people from interfering with the voting technology.

“It is up to us as we the people to do something about it,” Gessel said.

To replace them, petitioners propose an “auditable voting system” that would use only a paper record that a voter deposits into a secured, non-electronic ballot box.

“Since voting integrity is essential for a free state, all voting in North Dakota elections shall be done by paper ballots and counted by hand on the day of the election,” the petition reads.

Gessel said the group is independently funding the petition and plans to hit the ground running, visiting with local groups and tabling events to gather the needed signatures.

‘It’s nonsense’

Allan Peterson, a Fargo-based disability advocate with the North Dakota Association for the Blind, said people with disabilities in North Dakota “worked hard” to get voting machines.

“This whole idea, this whole attempt, is purely politics and it has no place in our right to vote,” Peterson said. “It’s nonsense.”

Voting machines help people with a variety of disabilities vote independently in elections, Peterson said, a key way to give people with disabilities more agency and allow them to participate equitably in the political process.

It gives people the pride of filling out their own ballot, he said. For people with sight impairments, the machine reads their votes back to them to ensure accuracy and then prints the ballot out, he said. They don’t do anything beyond record votes, he said, and prohibiting machines isn’t helpful.

“So we should go back to the checkbook, should we? And write everything in checks. Is that what this is suggesting?” Peterson asked rhetorically. “How stupid can people be?”

When asked if her group had identified any way to address the lack of machines for those with disabilities, Gessel said they had not but would look into it.

She suggested that a spouse could assist a person with disabilities in voting. Peterson said that method doesn’t allow people with disabilities privacy in the voting booth or personal agency.

What a voting machine does

Lee Ann Oliver, an election specialist with the Secretary of State Elections Office, clarified a few of the state’s current election procedures in light of the petition.

Voting machines are not connected to the internet, Oliver said. Elections machines don’t even have modems.

Paper ballots are already the way that people vote in North Dakota, she said. Voting machines print out a paper ballot after a voter is done. The voter then walks that ballot over to the ballot box.

Next, paper ballots are scanned and counted. Machines are tested before and after for accuracy, she said.

Afterwards, the results of that count are transferred manually into a different machine and uploaded to the internet for people to view.

It would be impossible to count all the votes by hand in one day, she noted. Further, people counting that many ballots are likely to lose count and need to start over, or count multiple times to ensure accuracy, slowing down the count even more.

Further, federal law dictates that each polling location must have a way for people with disabilities to cast their ballots , she said.

Voting by hand won’t introduce errors, Gessel said. “I don’t think we’re going to have as many problems as the machines,” she said.

She doesn’t believe that the voting machines don’t connect to the internet, and is concerned they could be “hacked”.

What else the petition says

There are a host of other changes sought within the petition related to elections, petitions and recall efforts.

Changes include:

  • Banning early voting and public ballot drop boxes.
  • No requirements for political parties to qualify before putting candidates on the ballot.
  • Allowing people who aren’t North Dakotans to circulate petitions.
  • Allowing signature gatherers to be paid by the signature.
  • Petitioners accessing any public property without restrictions.
  • Requiring the state to preserve paper ballots for six years instead of 22 months
  • The ability to recall elected officials with 10% of the vote instead of the current 25%

Secretary of State Michael Howe has until Sept. 6 to draft a title for the petition.
Petitioners have until Feb. 12, 2024, to submit the signatures needed to the Secretary of State for verification and to be placed on the ballot in the 2024 election.

Source : Inforum