Published June 25, 2024

Complaint alleges Stutsman County election worker failed to initial ballots

Written by
The Dakotan
| The Dakotan


JAMESTOWN, N.D. – An election judge in Stutsman County is under investigation for failing to initial multiple ballots given to voters during North Dakota’s primary election on June 11.

Secretary of State Michael Howe said a complaint that’s under review also involves other potential violations of the poll worker’s oath of office and the election worker code of conduct. 

“The reports that we have received are concerning,” Howe said. “It doesn’t necessarily influence the integrity of the election or any results in Stutsman County.”

Stutsman County Auditor Jessica Alonge said she received three reported instances of an election judge failing to put her initials on ballots as required by law. Alonge said she also observed one instance herself and warned the election judge that she would be relieved of her duties if she forgot to initial a ballot a fifth time.

Howe said every ballot needs to be initialed by an election judge. But if a ballot is inserted into a vote tabulator without initials, the vote would still count, except in the case of a recount.

In some cases, the election judge approached voters and handled the ballots after they’d been marked by voters, according to a complaint written by Alonge.

In addition, an election observer reported that the same election judge talked at the Stutsman County Vote Center about election machines being “rigged,” alleging they could be hacked because they are connected to the internet. The vote tabulator machines are not connected to the internet.

The election judge also opened up her cellphone to text messages that falsely claimed that U.S. House candidate Julie Fedorchak had withdrawn from the race, according to the election observer. The Fedorchak campaign has filed complaints about the text messages with the Federal Election Commission and other agencies. 

Alonge also received a report that the same election judge wore a pin for U.S. House candidate Rick Becker on her purse at the polling place, an apparent violation of displaying candidate signage at a polling location.

In addition, another election worker reported that the election judge had asked him about his religious and political views while they were working the election.

Alonge reported the information to the Stutsman County sheriff, who forwarded it to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

According to the complaint, the election judge attended poll worker training for the primary on June 6 and signed the county’s code of conduct for being a poll worker. She also signed an oath of office with the county on June 11.

The code of conduct prohibits expressing personal political opinions to other election workers or voters and says election workers should help stop the spread of misinformation. The oath of office says election judges will endeavor to prevent fraud, deceit and abuse.

In a letter, Howe directs Alonge to work with the BCI and the Stutsman County state’s attorney to investigate.

The North Dakota Monitor is not naming the election judge at this time because no charges have been filed.

When contacted for comment on Monday, the election judge said, “Wow,” and hung up.

Alonge said the situation is frustrating, especially at a time when it’s difficult to find poll workers for each precinct.

The county had a similar issue with the same election worker during the 2022 election where ballots were discovered to not have the required initials when the ballots were handed to voters, Alonge said.

“Same thing, same poll worker,” she said. 

That year, the election judge demanded that the vote-counting machine be opened because of the forgotten initials. Alonge said the machine was not opened because that would have violated state law.

Howe said his office was not aware of a complaint about the same worker from 2022.

The election judge’s behavior was not discussed Monday as the Stutsman County Canvassing Board met to review absentee ballots. The State Canvassing Board meets on Wednesday to certify the results of the election.

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