What if you could put any address you wanted on your voter ID and nobody would check it? That situation seems to exist right now in North Dakota.
Yesterday there was a letter opinion issued from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem’s office, at the request of Burleigh County State’s Attorney Richard Riha, which held that out of date addresses on drivers licenses do not necessarily invalidate those licenses as a form of identification for voting.
The full opinion is below, but basically Stenehjem said that as long as the DOT has the correct address in their files (which are shared with election officials working at the polls) the voter is good.
The thing is, though, that people with North Dakota driver licenses can change their addresses online via the Department of Transportation website, but nobody verifies if the change of address is valid. I wrote about it at Watchdog today:
But Jamie Olson, spokeswoman for the DOT, says her department doesn’t verify whether changes in address — something North Dakota license holders can do by way of an online form — are valid.
“That’s a good question,” Olson said when first asked if address changes are verified. “I have no idea.”
“We do not have a verification process in place,” Olson said later after checking on the issue with DOT staff. “There’s no way for us to verify whether or not that person is actually living at that address.”
Olson added that addresses submitted are cross referenced with postal information to ensure the addresses are valid. “You couldn’t just make up some random numbers,” Olson said. She also said the system will not accept a post office box address.
Rep. Randy Boehning, who introduced the legislation which put our current voter ID laws in place, acknowledged the potential for fraud in the DOT address data but said the current system was likely the best we could do without going to full-on voter registration (North Dakota is the only state without it).
“We kind of rely on them to have the up-to-date address,” Boehning said, referring to the DOT. “If you’re changing your address to vote in an address you don’t live in then there’s an issue. I don’t know how we can actually fix that.”
“For right now without going to full voter registration, that’s the best we can do,” he added. “The optimal would be having that permanent address on the ID at the time you vote, but in our society today people move so many times that’s impossible. That’s the big issue we deal with and that all states deal with.”
Maybe it’s time for voter registration?