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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published June 09 2012

Strong voter turnout expected in North Dakota Oil Patch

WILLISTON, N.D. – Counties in northwest North Dakota expect strong voter turnout on Tuesday, but officials aren’t sure how many workers living in RVs, hotels or crew camps will be among the voters.

McKenzie County Auditor Linda Svihovec said she’s talked to poll workers about how to handle voters who may not have traditional addresses but meet voter qualifications.

“An RV doesn’t mean that they’re not a valid voter,” Svihovec said.

Newcomers to North Dakota can vote if they’re U.S. citizens, are 18 or older, and have lived in the precinct for at least 30 days, said Secretary of State Al Jaeger.

Some workers who live in hotels or crew camps are truly temporary and still have a residence elsewhere, while others may consider the hotel their home.

“They can only have one residence,” Svihovec said.

In some cases, voters are going to have to make a choice about what they consider their permanent address, Jaeger said.

If voters do not have a form of identification such as a driver’s license with a current address or a utility bill, they can fill out a voter’s affidavit, which is a sworn statement.

Misrepresenting yourself on this document is a Class A misdemeanor subject to one year in jail or a $2,000 fine.

“Yes, they’re allowed to vote, but if it’s found out that they have falsely voted, there are consequences,” Jaeger said.

Jaeger and other county officials say they anticipate the presidential election in November will attract a lot more of the new workers than the June primary.

Josh Sutinen, who has been living in Epping and working in Williston for about two weeks, said he’d vote on Tuesday if he could, but he thinks he’s the exception.

The 18-year-old from Longview, Wash., won’t meet the 30-day residency requirement for the primary, but he expects to vote in North Dakota this November.

Sutinen, who shares a trailer in Epping with seven guys, said he doesn’t think his roommates will vote.

“Many people are really busy with their jobs and they don’t really have time,” he said.

Mountrail County Auditor Joan Hollekim said she ordered extra ballots and is sending extra voter affidavits to the polls.

“I expect a lot of new voters out there. There are a lot of new people,” Hollekim said.

But roads are a bigger worry for her. Hollekim lost some election workers this year because the north-south roads in the county are under construction.

“I’m more nervous about the roads than I am about the election,” Hollekim said.

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Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.