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  • Asking the Experts: A look inside Cass County’s June Election & New Approval Voting in Fargo

  • Asking the Experts: A look inside Cass County’s June Election & New Approval Voting in Fargo

    Asking the Experts: A look inside Cass County’s June Election & New Approval Voting in Fargo

    We had the opportunity to virtually interview Michael Montplaisir, Cass County Finance Director, who has over 30 years’ experience of running elections and ask him about the upcoming June primary election, the transition to by-mail voting only, and the shift to approval voting within Fargo.


    Why did Cass County decide to hold the June election entirely by mail?
    Although we like to provide people the option to vote either by absentee ballot or in person at the ballot box, it takes a long time for us to plan and administer a successful election. With more than 100 different ballots that we need to produce within Cass County and the necessary preparation time to ensure everything runs smoothly, we found ourselves in early April needing to decide on which path to go down for the June election. Given the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 situation, the difficulty we were having to find election judges, our inability to utilize two of our precinct locations, due to them being within an assisted living home, and the fact that the last thing we ever want to do is postpone an election, it was decided that the June election would be conducted entirely by mail.

    Ultimately, a Cass County Commission vote allowed this change to happen, but the governor’s executive order on March 26 was instrumental. Under current law, on election day, there needs to be at least one polling place open— the executive order temporarily lifted this. Additionally, the executive order increased the mandated processing time for ballots that are mailed in from two to five business days; this will give election judges much more time to process the large increase in ballots they will receive. Not only has the governor been helpful, but so has the Secretary of State’s Office as they ordered an additional automatic absentee ballot counter for the four largest counties in the state to help us process the large increase in ballots that we are expecting to receive.

    How will voters receive their absentee ballots and are there any important deadlines they should know?
    Any voter who is listed in the Central Voter File with the North Dakota Secretary of State will receive, by mail, the information and necessary documents to request their ballot. If someone does not receive this, they may request their ballot by visiting casscountynd.gov, vote.nd.gov, or by calling the Cass County office at 701.241.5600.

    We urge everyone to request their ballot as soon as they can to give us as much time as possible to process and mail your ballot. For your vote to be counted, all completed ballots must be post-marked by June 8.

    What is approval voting and what should voters know as they cast their ballots in June for the Fargo City Commission?
    For the first time, the two individuals who will be elected to the Fargo City Commission will be decided by approval voting. Approval voting allows voters to vote for as many candidates as they ‘approve’ of as opposed to only being able to vote for their top to choices. For example, this year there are seven candidates, along with two writein spots, so technically someone could vote for up to nine different individuals. Finally, it’s important to note that this is approval voting, NOT rank voting.

    What are the pros of approval voting and why did the City of Fargo decide to make that transition?
    One of the major concerns that Fargo voters had regarding the City Commission race is that with so many candidates, and voters only being able to vote for two options, that the individuals elected may not receive a majority of the vote. This new election process will now hopefully result in the election of the candidates who most voters believe would be the best individuals for the job.

    Got a question for a legislator, public official or other expert? Let us know what’s keeping you up at night and we just might help get you answers. Email mrademacher@fmwfchamber.com to submit a suggestion.

    Learn more about our area's elections, including candidates and races, on our Local Elections page HERE.

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