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ND Voter-Rights Advocates Sound Alarm on Election Bills

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Thursday, February 4, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. -- The national debate over voter fraud concerns, which have been discredited by many court rulings, has reached the North Dakota Legislature.

Several election rule changes are being considered that voter-rights advocates say would harm the state's system, not improve it.

One of the bills would lengthen residency requirements for someone to participate in an election. To be eligible, a person would have to live in the state for at least a year, and in their district for at least 90 days, as opposed to the current rule of 30 days.

Rick Gion, communications and policy director for the nonpartisan group North Dakota Voters First, said bills such as this one are unnecessary.

"We're seeing a group, a small group of Republican legislators, picking up on this national conspiracy-based agenda," Gion remarked. "That's truly unfortunate."

Gion noted while certain improvements always can be considered, he believes North Dakota has a strong and fair election system.

Another proposed bill would place restrictions on voting absentee after that was a popular option during the pandemic.

Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, a sponsor of the residency bill, said he wants to protect against future instances of voter fraud in light of the national rhetoric.

But Gion and other advocates countered claims which trickled down from former President Donald Trump were soundly rejected through court decisions, and keeping them alive is a dangerous move.

He predicted the residency bill would restrict access to new residents, college students and minorities, and warned the other legislation could hurt all of those who are eligible to vote.

"These things would damage North Dakota's election system," Gion asserted.

Because of the pandemic, North Dakota took steps to make it easier to vote in the 2020 election, including an all-absentee primary.

The Secretary of State's office did not report any fraud issues stemming from last year's vote.

Disclosure: North Dakota Voters First contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, and Civil Rights. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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