Voters Need Not Register In North Dakota Is voter registration a good idea or a bad one? Voters in North Dakota have a special perspective on the issue.
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Voters Need Not Register In North Dakota

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Voters Need Not Register In North Dakota

Voters Need Not Register In North Dakota

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Weekend Edition Soapbox video blogger Jacob Soboroff is the executive director of Why Tuesday?, a nonpartisan group that researches how to increase voter turnout. On Election Day, Soboroff visited voters and election officials in North Dakota, the only state without voter registration. All North Dakota voters need to bring to their polling places are a state photo ID and a utility bill that shows their home addresses. Jacob is at NPR West. Hey, Jacob.

JACOB SOBOROFF: Hey, Liane.

HANSEN: So from what you saw in North Dakota, is voter registration a good or a bad idea?

SOBOROFF: That's a good question. I think in North Dakota they think that not having voter registration is a great idea. I talked to a lot of people in North Dakota, including the secretary of state, Al Jaeger, and the county auditor from Burleigh County, Kevin Glatt. You know, I asked them, if you could set the system for the electoral process in the entire United States, would you mimic the voter system here in North Dakota? And they said, you know what, I couldn't say. They said that they would leave that up to the other states to make their own decisions. And I think that that's probably accurate.

HANSEN: What about fraud though?

SOBOROFF: Al Jaeger, the first thing he said to me was - he's been secretary of state in North Dakota for 16 years. He said to me dead people don't vote in North Dakota. And he said that there were two international election observers in North Dakota, one from France and one from Russia. And the fellow from Russia was trying very, very hard to - you know, he called up newspapers, he called up the political party offices in North Dakota trying to find out if there was some fraud in North Dakota because of the lack of voter registration. And nobody I talked to, including these election observers, could find anything.

HANSEN: Well, you talked to election observers and state officials. What about voters? Did you talk to them about their voting system?

SOBOROFF: Absolutely.

HANSEN: What did they...

SOBOROFF: They love the voting system in North Dakota. Just about everyone I talked to said that the fact that you don't have to register to vote, you know, you gain the opportunity to wait until the last minute to make your decision. And the most interesting thing to me was that I was at the Little Country Cafe in Bismarck on Main Avenue, and it was about 2:30 or 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I was talking to two gentlemen, one who had already voted and the other who hadn't voted yet. And I said to him - you know, I was looking for reasons that people weren't going to vote in North Dakota, or people that didn't vote, why they didn't vote.

And the fellow that didn't vote, I said to him, you know, why haven't you voted yet? And I figured he was going to tell me, look, this is my only lunch break. I have no time. But the reason he said, was he wasn't into either of the candidates. And he said that if he wanted to vote, because he wouldn't have to register, he didn't even have to think about it until the last minute. He could show up with his driver's license. Even if he didn't have his driver's license, he could probably see someone in the polling place that he's known for years and years and years to sign an affidavit, even if he didn't have it. And his vote still would have been counted that very last minute. Almost to a person, North Dakotan voters love the North Dakotan voting system.

HANSEN: Jacob Soboroff is a video blogger for Weekend Edition Soapbox. Check out his vlogs at npr.org/soapbox. This is NPR News.

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