A Tip For North Dakota Election Results Watchers: Keep An Eye On Stutsman County


Later today we political junkies (which means pretty much the entirety of the SAB audience) will be glued to the election results.

Here’s a couple of tips from someone who has done this a few time before.

First, if you want the best results, just go straight to the North Dakota Secretary of State’s election results homepage. A lot of the local media organizations will be hosting their own results broadcasts/websites, but really all that stuff is being updated by someone sitting at a computer refreshing the Secretary of State’s website.

You’ll do best just going to the source.

Second, watch Stutsman County (Jamestown) because it is a bellwether for the rest of the state year after year. For one thing, Stutsman County usually reports their results early in the evening. For another, as goes Stutsman County so goes the state.

In every single general election since 2000 (and maybe further back, I haven’t checked) the results in Stutsman County have accurately predicted the outcome of every single statewide race. Even the close ones, and usually (though not always) within a percentage point or two. By some random happenstance of demographics, Stutsman County seems to almost perfectly reflect the political attitudes of North Dakota in general.

In 2012, the county’s results accurately predicted Democrat U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s victory over Republican Rick Berg. Statewide, Heitkamp won 50.24 percent to Berg’s 49.32 percent. In Stutsman County, Heitkmap won 50.61 to 49.07.

The county also predicted Republican Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm’s narrow victory over Democrat Jasper Schneider in 2008. Statewide, Hamm got 50.31 percent of the vote to Schneider’s 49.69 percent. In Stutsman County, Hamm received 52.35 percent of the vote to Schneider’s 47.65 percent.

In 2006 ,Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson won statewide by fewer than 2,000 votes. In Stutsman County, Johnson won by 12 votes.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Stutsman County will be predictive in this election cycle, and maybe I’m ruining the county’s status as a belwether by pointing it out (that which is observed changes), but if you want an early inkling of how the statewide candidate races will go watch the Stutsman County results.

Sadly, though, Stutsman County’s predictive magic doesn’t hold true for ballot measures, which is where I think most North Dakotans will be directing their attention.