Jaeger On Voting Problems: We Followed The Law

This morning I guest hosted for Mike Kapel on WDAY AM970 and talked about the ID issues some voters had on Tuesday.

I spoke with Kyle Thiel, a Bismarck resident who sent on a wild goose chase back to Dickinson where he lived previously in an effort to vote that was ultimately in vain. Thiel was told by the Secretary of State’s office that he’d done nothing wrong – he’d updated his drivers license to reflect his new address back in August – and that a “glitch” kept him from voting. Dustin Monke does an excellent job telling Thiel’s story in today’s Dickinson Press.

When you go to the polls, they already have your name and address in their poll books, because they pulled that data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (among other sources). In Thiel’s case, his address change at the DMV for some reason didn’t make it to the poll book.

I also spoke with Secretary of State Al Jaeger who said he wasn’t familiar with Thiel’s story specifically but was aware of similar issues around the state.

The audio of both interviews is available above.

The problem with the voter ID issue is that it’s become something of a partisan pinata. Democrats see any effort to implement voter ID policies as a calculated move to suppress the vote. They claim, repeatedly, that no vote fraud problem exists. Which is ridiculous.

“That law, to begin with, was a solution in search of a problem,” state Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider told the Grand Forks Herald yesterday, referring to the state’s voter ID law passed in 2013. “There’s absolutely no meaningful history of voter fraud in North Dakota.”

Of course, nobody has been investigating vote fraud either. North Dakota has required an ID to vote for some time, but before the 2014 cycle voters who didn’t have the requisite ID could still vote by signing an affidavit attesting to their status as a valid voter. Those votes were already counted long before any state officials had a chance to check the validity of the affidavits, which means in effect that nobody ever really checked their validity.

It’s easy for partisan bomb-throwers like Senator Schneider to say there isn’t a problem when nobody is looking for the problem. I think most reasonable people would agree that thousands of ballots cast without proper ID, and absent any effort to validate the voter’s identity, is a problem.

Which brings us back to Mr. Thiel. How is it that his address change didn’t make it into the local polling book? Jaeger didn’t have an answer, saying it’s something they’re checking on.

Jaeger did say that some voters who were turned away in their new precincts were able to go back to their old precincts to vote, but is that valid? What if their old precinct was in another legislative district? Or another county? Or another city? Is it really ok for a resident of, say, District 5 here in Minot to go to their old address in District 3 and cast a ballot for a different set of legislative candidates?

Here’s another facet of the debate: Some Democrats are saying that Jaeger broke the law by supposedly making up a policy by which there was a cut off for address changes 30 days out from the election. If you didn’t have your drivers license address changed by then, you were out of luck for voting. Rep. Marvin Nelson, a Democrat from District 9 (Rolla), says Jaeger’s policy was illegal:

I asked Jaeger about that, and he said that his policy reflects state law which requires you to be a resident of your precinct 30 days before election day. He said that allowing address changes less than 30 days before the election would undermine that law.

I think he has a point. I don’t have a lot of sympathy to people who couldn’t be bothered to get their identification in order before election day. Voting is easy, all the more so with early voting and balloting by mail available. If you’re too lazy, or too clueless, to figure it out then too bad.

But clearly there’s an issue when people like Thiel do everything right and still can’t vote. I don’t think problems like Thiel’s were widespread, but Thiel’s experience apparently wasn’t unique either.

I think North Dakotans need to know the scope of the problem – how many people in Thiel’s situation were turned away – as well as what caused the glitch between the DMV address data and the poll books used on election day.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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