North Dakota could become first state to count all votes by hand under new proposal


BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — All election ballots would be counted by hand under a proposal that could reach North Dakota voters, potentially achieving the goal of activists. across the country who distrust modern vote counting but disappointing election officials Those who say the change will unnecessarily delay vote tallying and lead to more errors.

Supporters of the proposed ballot measure are far from collecting enough signatures, but if the plan makes it to the ballot in June 2024 and voters pass it, North Dakota would have to replace ballot scanners with hundreds of employees across the state who carefully scan ballots. Will count and recount.

It's a change that other Republican-led states have attempted unsuccessfully in the years since former President Donald Trump began criticizing the country's vote-counting system and falsely claiming it was rigged against him.

"We've always counted by hand before we got these machines," said Lydia Geisele, a farmer who led the effort to get the measure on the ballot. “They can find people to do the work, because there are people willing to come in and count hands.”

Gesell said supporters were motivated by issues they claim will occur in 2022, including faulty ballot scanners and power outages that prevented people from voting in Bismarck.

Former Secretary of State Al Jaeger, a Republican who oversaw North Dakota's elections for 30 years through 2022, rejected Geisele's claims, saying, “Nothing happened that would have changed the outcome of the vote. Nothing."

The North Dakota effort ties in with a movement among Trump allies since 2020 Raised voice against voting machines, Without evidence, they labeled the machines as suspicious and fraudulent. In some cases, they also Voting system software was breached In its efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.

Earlier this year, Fox News reached an agreement Dominion Voting Systems must pay $787.5 million to settle a defamation suit brought over statements broadcast by the network that Dominion machines were rigged against Trump.

The North Dakota ballot measure proposes that all voting "shall be conducted by paper ballots and be counted by hand beginning on Election Day and continuing uninterrupted until the hand counting is completed."

The move would make North Dakota the first state to mandate hand counting, moving away from the paper ballots and scanners used for most elections. Voting Rights LabA non-partisan organization that monitors state voting laws.

scale does not specify A process or funding for counting hands. The state pays for election equipment, but each of North Dakota's 53 counties is responsible for poll workers and polling locations.

North Dakota's Republican Secretary of State Michael Howey said he opposed the proposed measure because hand counting is less standardized than the use of scanners. He compared it to computers instead of human umpires in a baseball game.

“When you do hand counts, you bring in the human element of umpiring. You can have a wide strike zone, you can have a narrow strike zone,” Howe said. “With the machine you get a consistent strike zone every time.”

Authorities elsewhere in the country have struggled to enforce hand-count requirements. Officials in Nye County, Nevada, in 2022 proceed with the hand count, but only after voting has ended and with machine counting. in Shasta County, California, a state law prevented Prevented officials from forcing a hand count for the November 7 election.

317 ballot papers last year It took more than seven hours to count By hand in Nevada's least populous county.

Legislators in at least eight states have also proposed banning ballot tabling in some way.

In April, Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs Vetoed a bill that would have effectively "mandated hand counting by prohibiting the use of any known type of electronic tabulator." Arizona's Republican-controlled Legislature passed a similar proposal, but it was deemed non-binding,

Election officials in some of North Dakota's largest counties raised questions about the proposal.

The hand count "appears to be extremely error-prone," said Craig Steingard, elections administrator for Cass County, the state's largest county.

"It will certainly be more difficult for us to conduct these elections correctly and then efficiently," he said.

Grand Forks County Finance and Tax Director Debbie Nelson said hand counts must be done repeatedly to get the correct numbers. You can't do it once, and it takes you a very long time to do work that a computer can do instantly.

The measure would allow any US citizen to verify or audit North Dakota elections. The initiative would also mandate that "all voting be completed only on Election Day", with allowances for absentee ballots being mailed only to those voters "who register in writing within a reasonable time period before Election Day." I request a specific election." Mail-in ballots would be "otherwise prohibited."

About 44% voters participated early voting or by mail In North Dakota's November 2022 election.

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Associated Press writer Gabe Stern contributed to this story from Reno, Nevada.



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