Voters to Decide on a Mandate to Hand-Count Ballots

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(Headline USA) All election ballots would be counted by hand under a proposal that could go to North Dakota voters, potentially achieving a goal of activists across the country who seek to ensure the integrity of elections.

If the plan makes the June 2024 ballot and voters pass it, North Dakota would replace ballot scanners, that are susceptible to tampering, with hundreds of workers across the state who would carefully count and recount ballots.

“We’ve always done hand counting before we got these machines,” said Lydia Gessele, a farmer who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot. “They can find the people to do the job, because there are people that are willing to come in and do the hand counting.”

Gessele said supporters were motivated by issues that occurred in 2022, including inaccurate ballot scanners and an electrical outage that prevented people in Bismarck from voting.

The North Dakota effort is aligned with a movement among Trump allies who since 2020 have railed against voting machines.

The measure also bans breaks in counting ballots.

The North Dakota ballot measure proposes all voting “shall be done by paper ballots and counted by hand starting on the day of the election and continuing uninterrupted until hand counting is completed.”

The move would make North Dakota the first state to mandate hand counts, shifting from the paper ballots and scanners used for most elections, according to Voting Rights Lab, a nonpartisan organization that tracks states’ voting legislation.

The measure would allow any U.S. citizen to verify or audit North Dakota elections. The initiative also would mandate that “all voting will be completed only on Election Day,” with allowance for absentee ballots mailed only for voters “who request one for a specific election in writing within a reasonable time period prior to Election Day.” Mail-in ballots would be “otherwise prohibited.”

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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