The number of polling locations in Burleigh County will be consolidated for the general election.
The Burleigh County Commission on Monday approved 15 polling locations for the November election. The decision was made due to safety concerns because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some polling locations that will no longer be used are small and were run by only a few staff members, Burleigh County Auditor Allan Vietmeier said in an interview. If those poll workers were to get sick, the polling location would not have enough staff to stay open on Election Day.
The larger polling locations that will be used in November have more space for social distancing and can remain open even if some staff stay home.
"We're trying to remove us from the schools, in case there's something that happens at the schools, and to get us into places where we have the ability to kind of spread those voting booths out," Vietmeier said.
All four rural precincts will have polling centers open on Election Day.
Commissioner Brian Bitner cautioned that an emergency plan should be created in case any polling locations shut down because of the pandemic on Election Day.
"It might not look pretty, but we should have a plan in place so we can accommodate every single person who wants to vote in person," Bitner said. "I think that's absolutely vital."
The secretary of state expects 11,000 people to vote in person on Election Day in Burleigh County, a decrease from the 32,000 who voted in person in 2016.
As of July 14, 20,000 people have requested absentee ballots for the general election. In 2016, about 8,000 people voted absentee. The secretary of state also predicts that 17,700 people in Burleigh County will cast their ballots during the early voting period, compared to the almost 9,000 who voted early in 2016.
Residents can vote early at the Bismarck Event Center from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2. The early voting center will have up to 60 voting booths set up in the main arena.
Vietmeier also said at the meeting that he spoke to seven state legislators who are comfortable with the decision because it only affects the 2020 general election. Those legislators will help find workers to staff polling places if needed, Vietmeier said. All district party chairs are comfortable with the plan as well, he said.
Reach Sam Nelson at 701-250-8264 or email@example.com.
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