An election watchdog group filed a federal lawsuit against North Dakota for the state’s practice of permitting mail-in ballots to be received and tabulated after Election Day.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) on Thursday asserted that the North Dakota practice of allowing election officials to collect and count the late ballots is illegal under federal law.
According to PILF President J. Christian Adams, the designation of “Election Day” is no more in the state. Rather, voters must wait on results due to ballots being received days or even weeks after the close of polling.
— Rob Port (@robport) July 7, 2023
He declared that this practice fosters “distrust and chaos” in the system as well as violates federal law.
Currently 18 states and the District of Columbia allow this to take place.
The main protagonist in Splonskowski v. White is Burleigh County Auditor Mark Splonskowski. He publicly questioned the constitutionality of North Dakota accepting ballots received after the deadline and said he is at risk of prosecution if he does not comply with federal statutes.
According to the civil complaint, “North Dakota law and Defendant’s enforcement of it harm Mr. Splonskowski because they put him in the position of having to choose between dictates of state law…and federal law that requires a single election day.
The suit named North Dakota Election Director Erika White as defendant.
The auditor asked that White be prohibited from enforcing the state law and instructing her personnel to accept what he termed as “late ballots.”
The state allows absentee ballots to be accepted in person up to the day before the election. If they are mailed, they must be postmarked by that preceding day to be counted.
The result is that some ballots do not reach election officials until several days after Election Day. North Dakota law permits counties to finalize their results up to 13 days after polling closes.
According to Splonskowski, this practice not only runs counter to federal law, but it permits elections to last well past Election Day. This leads to residents not knowing the results of their voting until much later.
The lawsuit noted that every mention in federal law of tabulating votes refers to the day in the singular tense, not the plural. This loose practice, the plaintiffs contended, means “Election Day could last weeks.”