Election largely quiet
An otherwise-quiet primary election was marred Tuesday by a pair of people seeking petition signatures from voters closer to the polling place entryway than permitted by the North Dakota Century Code.
And despite the new voter identification requirements, only a few people were turned away from the polls.
Of those, many simply walked from the Jamestown Civic Center polling place across the street to the local Department of Motor Vehicles driver licensing office, got new IDs and returned to the Civic Center to vote.
Unofficial results showed that 2,871 ballots had been cast in Stutsman County, with about 1,300 of those being cast at the Jamestown Civic Center location before 4:15 p.m.
“Turnout has been very low,” said Casey Bradley, Stutsman County auditor/chief operating officer. “We were expecting low, and it’s been low.”
The incident with the signature seekers occurred at about 2:45 p.m., Bradley said, when voters started complaining that there was a group of people standing in the entryway of the Civic Center stopping people and asking that they sign a petition to put a statewide measure on the ballot in the November general election. They wanted signatures for the proposed Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment.
“We asked them to move because they were in violation of the North Dakota Century Code,” Bradley said.
The code states that people cannot ask for petition signatures within 100 feet of the entrance to a voting location, and those looking for signatures were directly in front of the Civic Center, Bradley said.
“We pointed that out to them, they argued with us and said we were infringing on their constitutional right,” Bradley said. “We attempted to explain it to them, and they became hostile to us.”
At one point, the people asking for signatures did move, but failed to get 100 feet away, and then law enforcement was called, with first Sheriff Chad Kaiser arriving and then the Jamestown Police Department.
“I believe they confiscated the signature pages from them,” Bradley said. “… we’ll be asking that the state’s attorney pursues charges against them.”
Asking for signatures for a petition within 100 feet of the entryway to a polling place is a class A misdemeanor in North Dakota, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
“Other than our lawbreakers, it’s been a pretty mellow day,” Bradley said. “Everything’s been smooth and worked really well. Our staff has done a really good job.”
At the Civic Center
Chuck Axtman, one of several precinct judges working at the Civic Center Tuesday, said that most of the voters seemed to understand what they were doing.
“I haven’t seen probably anybody that hasn’t voted in previous elections,” Axtman said.
His job was to give instructions on how to use the ballot — particularly, explaining that for the party primaries each voter must choose only one party to vote in.
“A couple people have asked who the write-ins were,” Axtman said, referring to the Jamestown Public School Board races on the ballot. “… we were able to point out that the city has a position for three, but two (names) on the ballot.”
A few people had marked their ballots incorrectly, but returned and asked for new ballots, with the incorrect ones set to be destroyed.
Voter Linda Donahue, of Jamestown, said that she was most interested in the race for Jamestown mayor. The qualities she felt were most important were conservatism, honesty and taking care of Jamestown.
“I truly believe in our right to vote and believe in our country, state and city, county,” Donahue said.
Erik Laber, also of Jamestown, said that he, too, was most interested in the mayoral race.
“I wanted to vote for that one for sure,” Laber said, noting that this was only the second election he had voted in.
After the polling places had closed at 7 p.m., vote tallying began, with write-in votes having to be hand counted by groups of three or more people each.
Results of the write-in races were expected to be released by 10:30 p.m.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at (701) 952-8453 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org