The North Dakota Senate voted in favor of a voter identification bill Wednesday after a lengthy debate on the need for the added voting requirement.
House Bill 1332 passed by a 30-16 vote after more than 15 minutes of floor debate. Those in favor argued the bill would strengthen the integrity of the vote in North Dakota while opponents contended that voter fraud is a nonexistent problem in the state.
“HB 1332 now comes to us to eliminate the voter affidavit process and require an voter ID,” Sen. Dick Dever, R-Bismarck, said.
Dever said postcards are sent to addresses in order to confirm whether someone who’s filed a voter affidavit is at the address they say they’re at. Out of 10,517 affidavits received, nearly 380 of the postcards sent out were returned as undeliverable. Of these a total of nine are being investigated as potential cases of voter fraud.
He also disagreed with opponents’ concerns that HB1332 would make it more difficult for college students and the elderly in the state currently without identification to vote.
The cost for the North Dakota Department of Transportation to issue additional non-photo identifications for free to those without a driver’s license is estimated to cost $12,296 per biennium. College students can go to the North Dakota University System’s Campus Connection website and print out a form letter to use with their identification in order to vote. A system to address elderly voters without a driver’s license or identification is still being finalized.
Dever said with these provisions in place that it actually increases accessibility to the ballot.
Sen. Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, disagreed. He noted that there’s only been “one case of voter fraud in the last decade” and two or three total in the past 20 years.
Schneider said the odds of being struck by lightning are approximately “one in a million.” This he compared to one case of prosecuted voter fraud out of more than 2 million votes cast in North Dakota in the past decade. According to primary and general election vote totals from the secretary of state’s website more than 2.37 million ballots have been cast from 2002 through 2012.
“By any fair measure there is no problem,” Schneider said. “This bill has no impact on those cases of voter fraud.”
Dever said the state’s residents have historically shown great respect for the integrity of the voting process. However he said with the tens of thousands of new residents in recent years the need to ensure that continues is important.
“I think the integrity of the ballot is improved with this bill,” Dever said.