GOULD: It’s Time to Exercise Your Right and Head to the Polls on Tuesday

Exercising the right to vote is perhaps one of the best, and most important, things about being an American. Participating in democracy and having a say in who our country’s officials are is not something to be taken for granted. This Tuesday, March 10, thousands of North Dakotans will vote in our firehouse caucus, rallying around their Democratic primary candidate of choice.

Many might be wondering why North Dakota calls its caucus a “firehouse” caucus. Unlike traditional caucuses, like in Iowa, North Dakota (and other states like Alaska, Hawaii, and Kansas) voters sign into the polling location of their choice, cast their vote via paper ballot, and go on their way – no waiting around and no second alignments. And for the history buffs out there, these types of caucuses are usually held in public buildings like firehouses, hence the name.

Polling locations are located in Fargo, Grand Forks, Bismarck, Minot, Valley City, Jamestown, Dickinson, Williston and Devils Lake. Our tribal communities have polling locations in Standing Rock, Turtle Mountain, M.H.A Nation, Spirit Lake and Wahpeton. A full list of all 14 polling locations and addresses can be found here. But remember, North Dakotans can sign into any polling location of their choice.

This year, there’s more excitement than usual. In addition to having the opportunity to elect a candidate to boot Donald Trump from the White House, it looks like voter turnout in our state is set to surpass 2016 levels. Thanks in part to a successful first-year vote-by-mail program, over 3,000 North Dakotans have already requested mail-in ballots ahead of the actual caucus. And this trend is being reflected in other states, a movement that should buoy Democrat spirits around the country.

On Super Tuesday alone, a dozen states exceeded 2016 turnout levels. In Colorado, turnout increased by over 600 percent because of the switch from traditional caucus to a primary, and in Virginia, 1.3 million more voters cast a ballot, surpassing a record set in 2008. In the South Carolina primary, the state saw almost 8 percent more primary voters.

Increased voter turnout, especially in rural areas, will be the key to unlocking the White House (and Senate) for Democrats this election year. Across America, President Trump has proven himself unworthy of the trust voters put in him to “make America great again.” Farm bankruptcies are up all around the country, farmers are skeptical of the “Phase One” trade deal with China, and climate change has drastically changed the landscape of our farmland.

Just last week, President Trump said, “I love rural America. I love those beautiful red areas.” This election, let’s show him that rural America isn’t all red and that his broken promises have real, lasting effects on the people who live in rural communities. This Tuesday, let’s head to the polls with the enthusiasm we need to take back the White House and set a record for voter turnout in the process.

Tessa Gould