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North Dakota: How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts in the 2020 Election

What you need to know, including key deadlines, registration details, and how to vote by mail.

Grace Han/Thrillist

The 2020 General Election is fast approaching, complete with its complications due to COVID-19. But rest assured that it'll be easy to vote in North Dakota. The state's election system is a breeze to navigate; anyone can vote early or vote by mail without an excuse, and you can easily track your ballots through a handy government website as you count down to Election Day. 

As is the case with every state, the most complicated part of voting in North Dakota is getting your absentee ballot delivered with enough time for it to count in the election. So we've put together all the information and dates you need to know to make sure your voice is heard. Make sure to send things as early as possible, or read up on coronavirus safety guidelines if you're heading to the polls. Happy voting!

What’s the deadline to register to vote in North Dakota?

North Dakota doesn't register voters. Boom.

You can vote if you're an eligible resident of the state. That's anybody who has been a resident in the precinct (a particular district) for at least 30 days and can provide a North Dakota driver's license, non-driver ID, or tribal ID that includes your current residential address and birthday. You have to be at least 18 years-old on Election Day.

You can check your voter information on North Dakota Secretary of State's website.

Can I vote early? When does early voting start in North Dakota?

Yes, you can. And, frankly, it's an option you should consider if you're hoping to avoid crowds and long lines at your polling place on Election Day.

North Dakota offers early voting from from October 19 through November 2. Hours and dates vary depending on where you live, and you can find out where you're going to vote here. ND also offers no-excuse absentee voting, meaning anybody can vote early via mail as well (more on that soon). 

Can I vote by mail?

North Dakota voting just keeps getting easier! Anyone can vote by mail. The state's "no-excuse absentee voting" means anyone who is qualified to vote in person can get an absentee ballot.

How to vote by mail in North Dakota

If you're an active voter in the state, you should have already received an application for an absentee ballot in the mail. All you have to do is complete the application and submit it to you local election office, either by mail or in person.

The deadline to submit your application for an absentee ballot by mail is October 27, meaning they must arrive to be processed on that date. In other words, you'll need to mail your application well in advance for it to arrive on time. Send yours at least a week ahead of time to be safe.

Once you receive your absentee ballot, you're in good shape. All you have to do from there is mark it and return it to the county auditor no later than the day before Election Day either by mail or by hand delivering it in person. If you're returning yours by mail, that means the letter needs to be postmarked November 2, otherwise you need to go to the polls and vote in person. Seriously, try to get all this done at least a week early to avoid the hassle. The sooner the better.

Is there a way to track my mail-in ballot? How can I make sure it’s counted?

You can track your absentee ballot here, or go to the post office and add certified mail service to your letter. Then you'll be given a tracking label to search on the USPS website

Another step you can take to make sure you vote counts: make sure you sign your signature so that it matches what the state has on file with your voter information. It's also a good idea to avoid tearing or otherwise damaging your voter materials -- you don't want you ballot to be thrown out on some sort of technicality.

How can I stay safe while voting in person?

Use the Secretary of State's website to find out where you need to go to vote in person on Election Day. Because polling hours vary from county to county, the site will also tell you when you need to be there. If you're in line by the time your polling location is set to close, you'll be allowed to vote, according to the state's voting information FAQ.

While voting absentee by mail is probably the safest way to vote in the middle of the pandemic, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk when voting in person. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued several recommendations for how to keep yourself and others safe while voting in person this November.

Here's a rundown of what the CDC recommends, according to its official election guidance page:

  • Wear a mask. 
  • Keep a distance of at least six feet from others at all times.
  • Wash your hands both before and after leaving your polling location.
  • Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol frequently throughout your time inside the polling place, especially after you touch things like door hands, voting machines, and other surfaces that lots of other people touch.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover them with a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Dispose of the tissues in a lined garbage can, then use that 60% alcohol hand sanitizer again. 
  • Don't try to disinfect the voting machine or equipment yourself because you may end up damaging them. This is where hand sanitizer comes in handy. Use it after you touch the voting equipment or any other equipment at your precinct. If you use it before you touch the equipment, make sure your hands have dried before casting your ballot or touching any of the equipment present.
  • Try to vote when your polling place isn't at its busiest. This might involve driving by and checking to see how long the line is or making a plan to vote early in the dat.
  • Verify that you're registered to vote before you leave home and make sure you bring any ID/documents you'll need to avoid complications that could result in spending more time inside the polling place.
  • Bring your own black ink pen for marking your ballot, or your own stylus (just check with a polling place worker before you use it). 
  • If possible, fill out a sample ballot at home that you can use to speed up casting your ballot at the polling location. Knowing who you plan on voting for in each race will save you time inside the polling station.

Additional North Dakota voting resources

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Ruby Anderson is a News Writer at Thrillist. Send your tips to randerson@thrillist.com.