Vote By Mail

Ramsey County will be conducting elections through the mail, here are the basics of what you need to know about all-mail elections.

Defining How to Vote by Mail

Vote by Mail is an election where all ballots are cast as absentee. In North Dakota ‘absentee’ means the ballots are voted at home and returned to the county auditor’s office as early as 40 days before Election Day, but no later than the day before Election Day. All Ballots have to be returned the day before election or post marked the day before election.

Administration of Mail-In Votes

Vote by Mail is done through the following steps:
  1. Mail each eligible voter in the county an application for a ballot. 2016 they will be mailed between April 19 through April 29th.
  2. The voter returns the application to the county auditor, if they want to vote.
  3. Upon receipt of the application, a ballot specific to that voter’s precinct is sent to them.
  4. The voter votes their ballot in the comfort of their own home, taking time to carefully consider the questions on the ballot, and then returns the voted ballot to the county auditor through the mail or in person any time before Election Day.
  5. When the ballot is returned, the auditor matches the signature on the ballot envelope (legal affidavit) with the signature on the application and organizes the returned ballots (still in their sealed envelopes) for counting on Election Day.
  6. On Election Day a board consisting of 2 clerks and an inspector hired by the county, and at least 2 judges appointed by the political parties, counts the returned ballots.
  7. The ballots are in secrecy envelopes inside the return envelope, so never do those opening the envelope with the voter’s name on it see the voted ballot itself.
  8. There must be one polling site open on Election Day for those who choose not to vote by mail or who did not return their absentee ballot before Election Day. For 2016 the polling location open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. will be the Ramsey County Memorial Building-524 4th Avenue NE, Devils Lake ND

Common Practice

Vote by Mail is not a new concept in the United States, or in North Dakota. For many years counties could conduct their Primary Elections by mail. However, the 2007 Legislative Assembly changed the law to allow counties to conduct any election by mail.

In the northwest part of the country, the states of Oregon and Washington have conducted all-mail elections for many years and report increased voter turnout along with more efficient election administration. Just weeks ago, some Montana counties conducted their 2007 General Elections by mail and report considerable success. Here are some comparisons of turnout and examples of improvements from Montana:
  • Helena: election workers headed home by 8:30 p.m. and 8,600 residents voted - 61.5 percent of the registered electorate. (Vote By Mail)
  • Great Falls: 10,344, which is 28 percent of the registered voters. (Traditional Precincts)
  • Havre: 2,089 votes were cast, or 54 percent of the registered voters, an increase of 18 percent. The elections office was done counting votes 2 1/2 hours sooner than usual. (Vote By Mail)
  • Missoula County: voter turnout to 15,350, or 45 percent. Turnout had been 12 percent to 17 percent and declining. (Vote By Mail)
  • Flathead County:
    • Whitefish: 47 percent (Vote by Mail)
    • Kalispell: 9 percent (Traditional Precincts)