A presidential election, a tight Senate race and a number of ballot measures have potential to generate a strong turnout at the polls Tuesday.
The influx of people to western North Dakota due to oil activity also could have an effect on the numbers of votes cast.
One group that has been working to increase the turnout is the Brighter Future Alliance, a coalition of energy companies and business leaders.
In the past few years, thousands of new people have come to the state many of them in the oil patch, said Shane Goettle, project manager for the alliance. The aim of the alliance is to get information to those new residents to educate them on North Dakota's voting requirements and processes if they choose to vote in the state, he said.
Goettle said the state's 30-day residency requirement for voting is fairly lenient compared to rules on other forms of residency, such as in-state hunting licenses or driver licensing. For that reason, voting in North Dakota wouldn't necessary trigger residency in these other areas. However, many of the newcomers in North Dakota are putting down roots, and are interested in voting in the state where they work and pay taxes, he said.
"Our effort is to encourage voting. We think that a large voting block of new energy workers is something to pay attention to," Goettle said. "I think the candidates realize that across the board. They have to find out in their own way how do they appeal to these new residents? They are emerging, I think, as a powerful voting block in North Dakota."
Brighter Future Alliance is a nonprofit entity that focuses on voter education. It is separate from the pro-energy Brighter Future political action committee that endorses federal candidates. Goettle created the Brighter Future Super-PAC but is an employee with no ownership in the alliance.
The alliance produced resources that it is distributing through energy companies and has posted at work camps and in public places. The resources direct people to the Secretary of State's website for any specific information on polling sites and ballots.
Ward County Auditor Devra Smestad said the county typically plans for around 30,000 voters. In the last presidential election, there were 25,959 voters, but the region has seen population growth in the past four years.
Whether those voters will turn out is the question. Area political party leaders are optimistic about turnout, given the interest they are seeing.
Bruce Anderson, chairman of District 40 Democrats, said there has been more volunteer interest than usual.
"I get the sense that's the case across the state," he said.
Mike Rose, a Democratic candidate for the North Dakota House in District 38, said door-to-door campaigning has uncovered a number of people new to the area. Some living in rental housing are maintaining residency and voting elsewhere. But newcomers who plan to vote locally appear well acquainted with at least some of the state's issues, particularly those associated with oil impact, he said.
Louis Pinkerton, a Democratic House candidate in District 40, previously ran in District 5. He said many people haven't lost the dislike of President Obama that they had two years ago, but they are friendlier to local Democratic candidates on the campaign trail this time around.
Republican Rep. Bob Frantsvog, seeking re-election in District 40, said he's been impressed with the reception.
"People were very polite, willing to get into conversation, talk about issues," he said. Property taxes and property values seem to be a popular topic, he said.
Rep. Larry Bellew, a Republican seeking re-election District 38, said more people are interested in the national and statewide races, although in the valley, people still are concerned about their flood recovery.
"I know they still want help," Bellew said.
Voters will decide races at federal, state and county levels.
Along with Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, voters will see candidates from the Green, Constitution and Libertarian parties on the ballot. Minot native and former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is running as a Libertarian after initially seeking the Republican endorsement. Johnson was born Jan. 1, 1953, in Minot, his parents' hometown. The family moved away in 1958.
There's also the high-profile Senate race between Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Congressman Rick Berg. Republican Kevin Cramer, Democrat Pam Gulleson and Libertarian Eric Olson are running for the House.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley are running for re-election against Democrats Ryan Taylor and Ellen Chaffee and against two independent teams, Roland Riemers and running mate Anthony Johns and Paul Sorum and running mate Michael Coachman.
Other state offices on the ballot are state auditor, Democrat Scot Kelsh and Republican Robert Peterson; treasurer, Democrat Ross Mushik and Republican Kelly Schmidt; insurance commissioner, Republican Adam Hamm and Democrat Tom Potter; public service commissioner, Republican Randy Christmann, Democrat Brad Crabtree and Libertarian Joshua Voytek; superintendent of public instruction, Kirsten Baesler and Tracy Potter; and justice of the Supreme Court, Daniel Crothers.
Legislative races in Ward County include those District 4, where Republican Daryl Lies of Douglas and Democrat John Warner of Ryder are running for the Senate. Republican Glen Froseth of Kenmare and Democrats Tom Conklin of Douglas and Kenton Onstad of Parshall are running for the House.
In District 38, incumbent Republicans Sen. David Hogue and Reps. Dan Ruby and Bellew, all Minot are being challenged by Democrats Claire Granzotto of Minot for Senate and Rose of Minot and Robert Kibler of Burlington for the House.
In District 40, Republican Sen. Karen Krebsbach is seeking re-election unopposed. The House race includes Republican incumbents Frantsvog and Matt Klein and Democrat challengers Pinkerton and Sue Olafson.
The Ward County Commission race features Bruce I. Christianson, Jack Nybakken, Jim Lee, Shelly Weppler and Alan Walter. Three seats will be filled. Commissioner Carroll Erickson is not seeking re-election.
Patrick Zeltinger of Kenmare is on the Ward County ballot for Soil Conservation District supervisor.
Judges Richard Hagar and Williams McLees are seeking re-election in the Northwest Judicial District. Todd Cresap, who was appointed, is running to fill the remainder of the term.
Statewide ballot measures are the following:
- Constitutional Measure 1: removes the Legislature's ability to impose a poll tax from the constitution.
- Constitutional Measure 2: places a requirement in the constitution that state executive branch officials take oaths of office.
- Initiated Constitutional Measure 3: guarantees the right of farmers and ranchers to engage in modern farming and ranching practices.
- Statutory Measure 4: prohibits smoking in public places and most places of employment.
- Statutory Measure 5: makes cruelty to horses, dogs and cats a felony.
Ward County has two measures on the ballot. One would increase the 9-1-1 fees on phones from $1 a month to $1.50 a month. The other would impose a half percent sales tax countywide for a new office building, remodeling of the Courthouse, expansion of the jail and roads and other infrastructure.