Primary day in North Dakota – where voters will make a decision on a corporate farming referendum and a hotly contested Republican gubernatorial race – is still 31 days away thanks to vote-by-mail and absentee ballots voting is already well under way.
According to information from the Secretary of State’s office, as I write this there have been 2,123 absentee ballots and 19,800 vote by mail ballots issued for a total of 21,923 potential early votes with the total growing as new ballots are sent out.
Already 2,118 of those ballots have been cast, or about 9.66 percent.
To put those numbers into perspective, North Dakotans cast over 175,000 ballots in the last presidential year primary in 2012.
So what impact does this have on the Republican gubernatorial race, which is garnered the most attention from the public? While both candidates are no doubt urging their supporters to lock their votes in, early voting is probably better for Wayne Stenehjem than Doug Burgum.
My sense is that this is still very much Stenehjem’s race to lose. It’s Burgum who still needs to catch up, and a shortening timeline in which to convince a diminishing pool of voters isn’t the game he wants to be playing right now.
Which isn’t to say he can’t do it. His campaign has enormous resources. But the Stenehjem camp is probably happy that voting as begun.