Published June 11 2012
Cass County officials won't bar Fighting Sioux gear from pollsFARGO – Local election officials say they’re going to try to let the little things slide on Election Day, particularly when it comes to passionate voters weighing in on the statewide University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux nickname measure.
Cass County voters who wear Sioux-related apparel to the polls today won’t be asked to remove the gear unless they’re overtly trying to influence the election, county election coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse said.
North Dakota Measure 4 asks voters whether to uphold or reject the Legislature’s repeal of a state law requiring UND to continue using the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
A “yes” vote will be to allow UND to retire the name. A “no” will have the effect of requiring UND to keep the nickname.
Cass County Auditor Mike Montplaisir said last month that voters could be asked to take off the Sioux apparel or cover it up before casting their votes.
Buckhouse told The Forum that election officials certainly aren’t encouraging voters to don Sioux garb tomorrow, but upon conferring with the Cass County state’s attorney’s office, election supervisors aren’t going to make a big deal out of it.
North Dakota law prohibits any electioneering on Election Day, such as wearing “any political badge, button or any insignia within a polling place” or within 100 feet of the polls.
Anyone found guilty of electioneering on Election Day could be issued a fine of up to $5,000.
A voter simply wearing a Sioux jersey would make it “hard to prove that intent,” Buckhouse said.
But in clear-cut cases of someone trying to swing voters one way or the other on Measure 4, election officials won’t hesitate to ask the individual to remove or cover up the political item, Buckhouse said.
“Unless they’re overtly trying to persuade someone, it’s just not something (the state’s attorney) can prosecute,” she said. “All they’re looking for is attention, and if we don’t give them that, they’ll go away.”
She said it’s more likely election officials will run into more innocent forms of electioneering today, such as a voter forgetting to take off a candidate’s campaign button.
“We don’t see a lot of that,” Buckhouse said, adding that when it does happen, most voters understand and comply with the rules.
Candidates and campaigns across North Dakota were also required to take down any yard signs by midnight Monday in order to avoid electioneering infractions.
Buckhouse said most candidates are quick to cooperate with that requirement, but if there’s an oversight, the auditor’s office will contact campaigns on Election Day and ask them to remove any lingering yard signs.
State law separates billboards from yard signs in the electioneering provisions, Buckhouse said.
Because billboards are harder to take down, they are not required to be removed by Election Day, she said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541