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Erik Burgess, Published November 02 2012

Early voting turnout again strong in North Dakota

FARGO – Early voting statewide could beat record numbers set in 2008, Secretary of State Al Jaeger predicted on Friday.

Seven counties offer early voting in North Dakota – Burleigh, Cass, Grand Forks, Morten, Stark, Stutsman and Ward – and the way turnout was trending, the early turnout could be larger than in the last presidential election, Jaeger said.

“Right now, I’m thinking it’ll be a little bit higher,” Jaeger said. “And the reason that I say that – there’s such an effort being made by all political parties and all candidates to have their supporters vote early. It’s very intense out there.”

When polls closed Friday, 18,281 people had voted early in Cass County. In 2008, 20,744 votes were cast at the sole early poll site in the county.

By Thursday morning, 11,158 early votes had been cast at polling sites statewide, but Jaeger said he expects the final number to be higher than in 2008.

“In June, we had one of the highest numerical number of turnouts that we had in a number of years,” Jaeger said.

Early voting will need to have been strong Friday to beat the 2008 numbers. About 113,000 North Dakotans cast ballots at early voting precincts in 2008, according to Forum archives. The final statewide numbers won’t be tallied until Monday.

Four years ago, 77,224 voted statewide via absentee or vote-by-mail ballots before the general election. Statewide, when the polls closed Friday, 46,035 voted early via absentee or vote-by-mail ballots.

In Cass County, 8,767 voted via absentee in 2008, said auditor Mike Montplaisir. He’s expecting around 10,000 this year.

Both Cass and Clay counties set voter turnout records in 2008. Four years ago, 72,069 voted in Cass County, about 30,000 before Election Day.

This was the first general election in which Cass County had three early voting locations available instead of one – two in Fargo and one in Casselton, Montplaisir said.

“We really got overrun with people at the one location, and we started expanding that after that,” he said.

Montplaisir said he expects Election Day on Tuesday will go smoothly, unless Mother Nature says otherwise.

“We just don’t want a snowstorm,” he said. “I’m kind of wondering what Congress will do after this storm on the East Coast, if they want to look at structuring the elections a little bit differently so that it’s not just all headed for that one day.”

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518