North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe helps test Grand Forks voting equipment – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – North Dakota Secretary of State Michael Howe and his team on Friday helped conduct a public test of voting equipment used for early voting for the June 11 primary.

All 53 North Dakota counties will conduct their testing before early voting begins next week. In Grand Forks, residents can begin voting in person at the Alerus Center on June 4. Votes can be cast from 10am to 6pm and on Saturday, June 8 from 10am to 2pm. Additionally, absentee ballots sent through the mail must be postmarked by June 10 to be counted in the election.

Grand Forks County Chief Elections Officer Debbie Nelson went through the process she and her team go through to ensure the equipment used is accurate and secure before ballots are cast. Friday’s test only involved the equipment used for early voting. Another test of the Election Day equipment will take place in the coming days.

The county has 37 different ballots and had 34 versions of each, for a total of 1,258 test ballots used for each machine. The test tunings do not count towards the final table, but help ensure that the equipment is working and accurate.

“The pre-marked ballots come to us, we pick four of them and replace one with a red pen, one with a blue pen and one with a pencil, and then we do an express ballot, which is the ballot from the marking device that people are allowed to use,” Nelson said. “When we test, we always turn them in every direction so that the results are accurate, as we expect.”

Erika White, elections director for the state, said if a ballot becomes damaged so the machine can’t read it, they have solutions to ensure North Dakotans can still have their vote counted.

“You have a bipartisan board and they will recreate your ballot so they can scan it and work together to save it,” White said. “I have received ballots that the postal service has shredded, so there is a process in place to ensure that all valid ballots returned are counted.”

Howe said it is also important for people to know what is on the ballot to ensure there are no problems with the ballot they receive.

“This happened before I took office and it could happen again this election: Someone says, ‘I haven’t seen this candidate and I’m pretty sure I live in his district and wanted to vote for him.’ That voter received the wrong ballot,” Howe said. “In the rare event that you get the wrong ballot, you know what to look for.”


North Dakota Elections Director Erika White shows how the voting equipment used in elections works. Here she shows the calibration test at the Grand Forks County Office Building on May 31, 2024.

Matthew Voigt/Grand Forks Herald

Sample ballots and election information can be found on the Secretary of State’s website, Information about elections in Grand Forks County and Grand Forks can be found on the county website or by contacting Nelson’s office at 701-780-8200. Nelson is also looking for election workers. More information about eligibility and registration can be found by contacting her office at 701-780-8200.

Matthew Voigt

Voigt covers city government in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

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