Protecting Mail-In Voting in North Dakota (Splonskowski v. White)


At a Glance

Campaign Legal Center represents the League of Women Voters of North Dakota in defending North Dakota’s laws requiring election officials to count otherwise valid mail and absentee ballots postmarked up to the day before Election Day and received before the canvassing deadline.  

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In our democracy every voice must be heard, and that means we must count every vote.    

Today, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) joined the League of Women Voters of North Dakota (LWVND) in fighting back against an attack on North Dakotans’ freedom to vote. 

Last month, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the...

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About this Case

North Dakota law requires absentee and mail ballots to be postmarked by the day before Election Day. These ballots are then counted when they are received by election officials in the thirteen days between Election Day and the meeting of the Canvassing Board. North Dakota is one of several states that requires ballots received before the vote canvassing deadline to be counted so long as they were cast before Election Day. 

In July 2023, Mark Splonskowski, the County Auditor of Burleigh County, North Dakota, filed a lawsuit alleging that North Dakota law allowing lawfully cast ballots postmarked prior to Election Day to be counted after Election Day violates federal law which sets Election Day as a single specific day. He argues that state and federal law conflict and as an election official he would be put in the position of having to choose which to follow. The state of North Dakota is defending the law, arguing—among other things—that there is no conflict between state and federal law. 

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) represents the League of Women Voters of North Dakota (LWVND) as an intervenor-defendant in this suit. 


The challenge seeks to eliminate North Dakota’s uniform deadline for casting mail and absentee ballots, which would lead to widespread confusion and disenfranchisement for voters who cast absentee ballots or otherwise vote by mail. LWVND conducts voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts that would be directly impacted by a change in when mail ballots must be returned. And the many LWVND members who vote regularly by mail would face uncertainty and the possibility of having their properly-cast ballots rejected because of delays from the U.S. Postal Service. 

The Plaintiff’s claims rest on the assertion that federal statutes setting the time for Election Day also implicitly require all votes to be received and counted on or before Election Day. Courts have regularly rejected these types of challenges, including most recently in Illinois, on the grounds that they conflate the requirement for when a ballot must be cast with when the ballot must be received or counted by election officials. The ballots at issue are lawfully cast in accordance with state law prior to Election Day, and nothing in the federal election day laws sanctions, much less requires, rejecting valid and timely cast votes. 

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