While Floridians battle to cast an early vote, Ohioans wait in lines stretching for blocks, and voters in a variety of states fight for the right to vote at all, North Dakota is different. In North Dakota, the problem is that they have more voters than they know what to do with, thanks to the oil industry.
From the Associated Press:
In North Dakota, the only state that does not have voter registration, any citizen over 18 who has lived in the same place for at least 30 days can cast a ballot. That would include oil field workers who may actually be living elsewhere and commute home to see their families.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rick Berg, candidates for the U.S. Senate, are both pitching hard for the votes of energy workers. In a final campaign swing last week, Berg visited an oil field trucking service company, a natural gas processing plant and a coal mine in western North Dakota.
Heitkamp talks up her advocacy for North Dakota’s oil and coal industries when she served as North Dakota’s attorney general and tax commissioner. In one of her television ads, she speaks over the noise of a passing train of oil tanker cars while promising to support development of a new North Dakota refinery to process crude.
While polling in North Dakota is sporadic, the race is surprisingly close. The winner will replace retired Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan — meaning that the state could play a role in switching the Senate to Republican control. Well, it could have; polling now suggests that Democrats will retain the Senate.
When there was still some question on the issue, Big Oil leapt into action.
The oil industry is making sure its work force knows how to participate. A recent newsletter from the North Dakota Petroleum Council instructed workers who live in recreational vehicles or “skid shacks” — tiny huts, often no larger than a single-car garage, which can be hauled on flatbed trailers — how to request mail ballots. …
This year, as many as 4,300 new voters have been added to a state voter database in the nine largest oil-producing counties. That’s more people than live in 26 of North Dakota’s 53 counties, and a significant number in a state where 160,000 votes could elect either Berg or Heitkamp in their closely fought race.
The industry hasn’t limited its helpful voting suggestions to voters in North Dakota (as we’ve mentioned). A new report at The Nation notes how fossil fuel companies are leveraging Citizens United laxity to turn the screws. But it calls out North Dakota in particular.
The Nation has also obtained a letter blasting the Obama administration sent recently to natural gas lease-holders in North Dakota. In the letter, Continental Resources CEO Harold Hamm urged recipients to elect Republican Rick Berg to the US Senate. Hamm, a billionaire who is credited with helping author Romney’s energy plan, writes that Berg “has consistently fought for lower taxes for us” and warned that “your opportunity to receive royalty and bonus payments may also be impacted” by the election. The Citizens United decision liberated corporations to not only endorse candidates to their workers but also express similar election communications to their vendors and customers.
Remember Harry Hamm? He’s Romney’s top energy adviser and a major donor to a pro-Romney super PAC. In his off-hours, he gives his workers hints on how to vote.
This is the state of American politics. In battleground states, voters struggle just to cast a ballot. In North Dakota, it’s a corporate paradise: Employers can move people in, suggest to them how to vote — and potentially pick 1 percent of the United States Senate.