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North Dakota polling places to open for November election

August 17, 2020 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — All North Dakota counties are aiming to have in-person voting as an option during the general election, a reversal from the June primary when all polling places were closed statewide amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Everyone is really moving ahead on in-person voting,” Donnell Preskey Hushka, executive director of the North Dakota County Auditors Association, said Monday. Election officials in the state’s 53 counties are “determining how many polling places they want or need.”

Gov. Doug Burgum, at the request of the group, signed an executive order in March waiving the requirement that counties have at least one physical polling site for the June election, while allowing counties to conduct the primary election entirely by mail.

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Burgum stopped short of mandating that all polling places close during the state’s June election, despite being urged by county auditors to do so. The governor said he wanted to give counties the option of having open polling places, if they wanted.

Hushka said county auditors, who serve as local election officials, have more time to plan for the upcoming election. More personal protective equipment also is available now for election workers and voters, she said.

“It was such a crisis when this all first broke,” she said. “There was so much they were learning about but now we just have more time to prepare.”

Voters still have the option to vote by mail, and all counties will continue to use secure ballot drop boxes that were established during the June primary so that postage is not necessary, Hushka said.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger, North Dakota’s top elections official, said his staff has been holding weekly meetings with county officials to discuss the upcoming election, including precautions.

“It is our understanding all counties will have in-person voting,” Jaeger said. “We had to do what we did in June.”

Jaeger said the state plans an education campaign ahead of the November election to explain voting options.