Perhaps one of the forgotten races of this election cycle is tucked way up north. The North Dakota Senate race is a toss up and one of the more interesting Senate races this cycle. However, this shouldn’t be happening. Mitt Romney is leading Barack Obama by 14 points in the state and Rick Berg, the Republican nominee has out spent the Democratic candidate by over $1.5 million in television ads alone. In total, both candidates have spent $17 million, an unprecedented amount for the state. So North Dakota, whats going on?
Who Lives in North Dakota?
Good Question. Apparently, people and coal. But to actually understand the reason why this race is so important, we need to know the players. First, let’s meet the candidates through their ads. Up first, Republican Rick Berg:
Second, meet the challenger, Hedi Heitkamp:
Now, as you can see both have relatively similar appeals. Both are from good North Dakotan towns, have strong values, and want to answer directly to the people of North Dakota. But, the attack ads tell a different story.
Now, at this point you should be asking yourself why these attack ads are so civil. Well, welcome to “North Dakota nice.” While these attack ads have teeth, they’re so….civil. But, wasn’t there a huge problem with this race? It seems no, well, normal. On the contrary my friends. Allow me to introduce you to pandoras box of voting. Ready?
Voter Identification in North Dakota
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the one state that does not require voter registration. WHAT?!?! Yes, you read that correctly. All you need is your shining face and an ID that says you indeed live in the peace garden state. I’ll let the Sasha Issenburg from slate take it from here
“Any North Dakotan who arrives at a polling place (or early-vote location) with an ID card showing him or her to be over 18 years old and a resident of the local precinct is handed a ballot approved by a judge of elections. Anyone who does not have ID, or one with a local address on it—or is challenged by an election monitor—can complete an affidavit ballot attesting to his or her eligibility. While the state retains a central file of who has participated in past elections, voters’ IDs are not checked against it or any other external data source.”
Well, that’s problematic. But just wait, it gets worse. Once those contested ballots are cast they get counted as well. Meaning that if it is a close race either candidate can contest the results. And yes, a recall could ensue.
But, in a sate that Mitt Romney is supposed to easily win, why is a democrat even close to taking the senate?
The Ticket Splitter
The who? Well, a ticket splitter is someone that votes for say, Mitt Romney, but then casts his or her ballot for the Democratic nominee in the Senate, Hedi Heitkamp. Could there honestly be that many ticket splitters? Well. According to the Huffington Post, “Ticket-splitting has a long history in North Dakota. Until 2010, the state’s congressional delegation had been entirely Democratic since 1986, even as the state regularly voted for the GOP presidential ticket.” So, there is tradition there. What makes matters worse for Berg The post continues,
“Even Berg’s supporters say Heitkamp can be charming. Dennis Johnsrud, an Epping farmer who supports Berg, says the Republican must overcome Heitkamp’s “likability factor.”
“I think it’s very effective,” Johnsrud said of Berg’s strategy of tying Heitkamp to the president. “I think it’s the only reason (the race) is close.”
What does it all mean?
Another great question. What it means is that we are 5 days away from knowing the next president of the United States. Which means that if say, Obama wins again the Senate will need 4 new Republican Senators to take back the majority. If it is a Romney win, only three will be necessary. We are also 5 days away from knowing the winner of this race. Or are we?
Say this goes into a recall, we will have months before this is resolved. An absolute logistical mess.
As for now, both candidates are rolling out all of the stops. Hedi has Bill Clinton on the stump. Berg has junior Senator John Hoeven and John McCain. Ad spending is expected to only increase. And this, this is a race to watch. Keep checking Destination 270 for any and all up to date information on this and other nail-biting races as we get closer to that fated day, November 6th.