While South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs has been actively encouraging young adults to register, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger doesn’t see “getting out the vote” as part of his job description.
“I’m not comfortable using tax payer money to increase voter turnout. I will use it to educate the people about the voting process, and then it’s up to them to decide whether to vote, and (up to) the candidates … to get their message across as to why people should vote,” Jaeger said. “That, to me, is not my job. My job is to be sure that we administer elections in a fair and efficient manner, and educate the people about the process of voting.”
Jaeger said he does not believe he could have an effect from his position anyway.
“There isn’t a secretary of state in the country who has the power to increase voter turnout,” he said. “Voter turnout is completely driven by issues, candidates—what’s on the ballot—and my position here is that we will educate the people on the process of voting, but I will never do anything saying we encourage you to vote, or turn out to vote.”
A federal judge recently ruled that a different branch of North Dakota government was less encouraging of turnout than it should have been. U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland said a 2013 voter ID law passed by the North Dakota Legislature was unfair to Native Americans, who are less likely to have the kinds of ID that the law allowed. Hovland’s ruling means the law won’t be in effect in the upcoming election.
North Dakota’s elections have also received praise recently, however: The Pew Charitable Trusts rank North Dakota the top state in their Election Performance Index. South Dakota is 21st.