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You & Election Security

The trusted source of information on elections is your local election official or the North Dakota Secretary of State. Opinions on election processes can be incorrect and misleading, and misinformation spreads easily. Be a smart consumer and sharer of information – you are the last line of defense in election security.

Did You Know?

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About North Dakota Elections

Every County Has an Election Official

North Dakota statewide elections are a partnership between the Office of the Secretary of State and 53 county auditors throughout the state. This partnership promotes and supports secure, accurate, fair, and open elections for the citizens of North Dakota. Local jurisdictions, such as cities and school districts, may conduct their election with the statewide Primary election or may run the election themselves. 

North Dakota Only Uses Paper Ballots

North Dakota only uses paper ballots for voting. All votes cast and counted are on paper ballots. Paper ballots create an auditable paper record of all voting.

There are Three Ways to Vote in North Dakota

North Dakotans have three options for casting their vote. 

  • Early Voting 
  • Election Day at the Polls 
  • Absentee Voting

You are Never Mailed a Ballot Without Requesting One

  • Vote by mail counties mail voting age residents absentee ballot applications. You must fill out the application and provide identifying information which is verified by the county auditor before a ballot is sent to you. North Dakota has over 30 counties who are vote by mail and all have at least one polling location open on Election Day.
  • In all other counties, you must request an absentee ballot application from your county auditor or through the Office of the Secretary of State.

Absentee Ballots Must be Cast Before Election Day

Absentee ballots must be returned before Election Day, which means delivered to the county auditor or postmarked  by the day before Election Day. Absentee ballots returned or postmarked on or after Election Day or after are not counted. 

One Person = One Vote 

North Dakota’s Central Voter File ensures one person = one vote. Even if you mail an absentee ballot and show up at the polls to cast your vote, your voter record will show you officially cast your vote. Whichever ballot is received first will result in your voter record being updated and not allow you to vote again in that election.

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Election Equipment

Same Equipment Used in All Counties

North Dakota has a centralized voting system which means the same equipment is used across all 53 counties for statewide elections. Learn more about Election Equipment used in North Dakota. 

Ballot Tabulators are Not Connected to the Internet

North Dakota ballot tabulators and assistive ballot marking devices are not connected to the internet and do not have any components that would allow such a connection. 

Ballot Tabulators Are More Accurate than Hand Counting

Prior to technology enhancements, ballots were counted by hand. While it seems simple, hand counting ballots is the method most susceptible to fraud, prone to inaccuracies due to human error, and very slow. All North Dakota counties use tabulators to count ballots. Tabulators are not connected to the internet and are tested both before and after the election for accuracy. 

Equipment is Tested Before & After Election

North Dakota law required that tabulating equipment be tested before and after the election, known as “logic and accuracy testing.” The purpose of the testing is to ensure the tabulating equipment is tabulating ballots properly. During the logic and accuracy testing, both proper and improper ballots are submitted through the tabulator to ensure the counting is accurate. This testing is also open to the general public to attend and observe, and representatives from political parties are invited to attend.

Electronic Ballot Marking Devices Use Paper Ballots

The ExpressVote accessible ballot marking device is an electronic display that allows a voter to electronically select their voting choices and then produces a paper ballot. The voter can review all their selections on the ballot printed by the ExpressVote. It is this paper ballot that the voter places into the tabulator to be counted. State law requires all votes cast in North Dakota be by paper ballot. 

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Election Security

North Dakota Requires Voter ID

North Dakota is the only state without voter registration, as our voter ID law requires a valid form of ID to vote whether you are voting by mail or in person (NDCC § 16.1-01-04.1). Voter ID helps prevent voter fraud by ensuring that every eligible voter must verify their identity prior to casting a ballot. It is the key tool to ensuring one person equals one vote. Voter ID has been in place in North Dakota for over two decades.

Voting Equipment Systems are Certified

North Dakota takes election security very seriously. There are several steps taken to ensure the accuracy of voting tabulation equipment, before, during, and after an election. Election equipment is considered part of the nation’s critical infrastructure. The tampering with or unauthorized access and/or use of North Dakota’s election equipment is a class C felony under NDCC § 16.1-06-25.

  • All voting equipment used in North Dakota is certified by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the North Dakota Secretary of State according to state law. EAC certification requires each voting system to be tested by an independent testing authority prior to federal certification. 
  • Election officials follow strict processes that require:
    • Using multi-factor authentication and security for all logins.
    • Programming all voting equipment according to state law. 
    • Testing equipment for 100% accuracy prior to and after each election. 
    • Conducting an election with bipartisan poll workers and observers. 
    • Verifying the total number of ballots cast matches the total number of voters. 
    • Maintaining a strict chain of custody for all ballots.  

There is a Ballot Chain of Custody & Disposal

There is a statewide standard set by the Secretary of State for chain of custody procedures when handling voted ballots. County recorders are the official keepers of the ballots after an election. Following the county canvass and applicable recounts, ballots are required to be sealed and stored until destroyed. State law and federal law requires that ballots are kept for 22 months following an election (NDCC 16.1-15-13).

Equipment is Tested Before & After Election

North Dakota law requires that tabulating equipment be tested before and after the election, known as “logic and accuracy testing.” The purpose of the testing is to ensure the tabulating equipment is tabulating ballots properly. During the logic and accuracy testing, both proper and improper ballots are submitted through the tabulator to ensure the counting is accurate. This testing is also open to the general public to attend and observe. Representatives from political parties receive an invitation from the county to attend as well.

Third Party Review of Election Equipment

Election equipment is extensively tested under Federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) standards by experts in election technology and processes. North Dakota’s election equipment is secure, and third-party testing in 2022 determined that it is exceptionally unlikely that the results of an election in North Dakota would be fraudulently influenced. In fact, because of the numerous safeguards North Dakota has in place to protect election integrity, it would take unprecedented collusion – mass cooperation of people operating in secrecy – for fraudulent influence to occur. Review the Voter Process Security Assessment audit report for more information.

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Certification of Election

Election Results are Not Final Until Certified

Once polls close, unofficial election results are submitted to the North Dakota Secretary of State. Election results are unofficial until canvassed. Local canvassing boards, made up of election officials and qualified electors, meet 13 days after the election to account for every voted ballot to ensure all votes are included in official results. Canvassing boards: 

  • Review late-arriving absentee ballots 
  • Review set-aside ballots 
  • Tabulate any approved ballots 
  • Certify the results 

Following the canvassing boards, the North Dakota Secretary of State certifies the election. Learn more about Canvassing Boards.

FACT: Qualified electors serve on many election related boards to ensure election processes are conducted with integrity.

Election Results Can Only be Changed by Contesting an Election

Ten or more North Dakota voters, or defeated candidates, may contest an election result. The voter must file an election contest with the district court. Election contests are handled with in the court system and the judge has wide discretion in how to address the contest. Those contesting the result must pay for the recount of the race unless certain requirements in law are met. Election contests do not apply to federal races.