Does North Dakota Need Voter Registration?


It comes up every election cycle, and every time we debate voter ID laws, but North Dakota is the only state in the union without voter registration.

Lawmakers are studying that in the interim between sessions, and a meeting of the interim Judiciary Committee took the issue up yesterday. According to the Bismarck Tribune, there wasn’t a whole lot of enthusiasm in the room for the change.

For one thing, there are a whole host of requirements for voter registration foisted on the states by the federal government mostly through the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The state would have to develop forms and procedures through which government agencies and private groups (see: ACORN) could register voters. The Department of Motor Vehicles would also have to offer voter registration to everyone renewing their driver’s licenses.

That’s would all take a lot of time and expense to implement.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]“In my opinion, we already have (de-facto) voter registration in North Dakota,” Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt is quoted as saying by the Tribune.[/mks_pullquote]

“In my opinion, we already have (de-facto) voter registration in North Dakota,” Burleigh County Auditor Kevin Glatt is quoted as saying by the Tribune.

But the status quo, even with improvements in the form of new and reformed voter ID laws, is still vulnerable. Rep. Corey Mock (D-Doesn’t Live In His District) made a good point about that in debate over a voter ID bill earlier this year (video at the link). Mock pointed out that election officials use the Department of Transportation’s license database to verify addresses. Currently voters are told to make sure their address in that database is up to date by 30 days before election day, but one way you can change that address is simply by going online and submitting the change through an online form.

Meaning anyone can assign themselves a new address in an area they’d like to vote in without the DOT verifying anything.

And there is another good reason to switch to voter registration. Currently the primary process through which the various political parties pick their candidates is enshrined in state law (the party conventions simply endorse candidates; the actual nomination occurs on the June ballot). But without voter registration, what the state is asking the political parties to do is open up their candidate selection to voters with no requirement that those voters are actually, you know, a Republican or a Democrat or a Libertarian.

Voter registration would give us at least some assurance that the people voting to choose, say, the Democrat candidate for governor in a disputed nomination race are actually Democrat party members as opposed to someone who just chose to vote Democrat that day. And so on and so forth with the other parties.

Or, alternatively, we could continue to be the only state in the union without voter registration at which point we should junk the current code surrounding how the political parties pick their candidates. These are private organizations, after all, and I’ve never understood why that process is in statute. If the Republicans want to pick their candidates based on which ones can stand on their head the longest that would be silly, but also their right as a private organization.

So those are our choices, I think. Either we protect the current party nomination process in the code with voter registration or we junk that process entirely and let the party’s decide how they’ll pick the candidates.