A potential access issue for all North Dakotans this June is the $1.20 in postage required to mail off your ballot.
The ACLU of North Dakota calls it a 21st-century poll tax, because people are, in a way, having to pay to vote.
Dane DeKrey, the Advocacy Director for the ACLU of North Dakota, says it goes against the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits a poll tax in any federal election.
He says it’s something the non-profit’s legal team is looking into. DeKrey says the solution is to send ballots in a pre-paid envelope.
“When we say poll tax, what we essentially mean is it shouldn’t cost you anything to vote, period. It’s easy to say, ‘Well 55 cents isn’t a lot, $1.20 isn’t a lot’, but that’s always the proverbial slippery slope argument, that we as an organization were created to argue against,” DeKrey explains.
The ACLU has also filed lawsuits about this in other states, most notably Georgia.
The U.S. District Court concluded that a remedy would not be realistic to implement in time for the June election.
The ACLU’s proposal was denied, but only for the June election. The court says it reserves judgment on whether relief will be necessary for future elections, including this November’s.
DeKrey says in North Dakota, legal action will be a last resort.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger says by State law, the voter is required to pay postage for any type of absentee ballot.
Here’s the language he’s referring to in the North Dakota Century Code:
“…A voter voting by absentee ballot may not require the political subdivision providing the ballot to bear the expense of the return postage for an absentee ballot.” – NDCC 16.1-07-08 (1)
Jaeger says the law does not allow for prepaid ballots, and he says, this goes for any election cycle when North Dakotans request absentee ballots.
He says he has never heard a concern from the 33 counties that have long gone by the mail-in only option.
“On the other hand, if we could only vote by polling location, there is some cost involved of driving to that polling location. And so, there’s convenience in it,” added the Secretary of State.
As of today, 161,457 ballots have been sent out. 41,009 have been returned.