3 Cass County election officials quit saying enough wasn't done to prevent COVID-19

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 6:56 PM CDT
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The clock is ticking for those of you in North Dakota wanting to vote. The state is using mail-in balloting, yet several election officials in Cass County quit in the middle of counting ballots.

Isaac Spanjer reached out to our Whistleblower Hotline saying he and two other election judges walked out of the job on Thursday.

“We had a general anti-mask sentiment,” Spanjer said.

People are voting by mail due to the COVID-19 outbreak and a space was rented out in the Ramada Inn to count ballots to help with social distancing.

Spanjer said he approached his supervisor about some people not wearing masks. Nearly half the room had a mask on.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevent cites that wearing a mask helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, if the person carrying the infectious disease is the one wearing the mask.

“I explained my situation of living with someone who's very covid susceptible. A mom with late stage lung cancer. And it was a very general sentiment of, ‘how dare you ask us to do this? It's my right not to wear a mask,” Spanjer said.

When nothing was done he walked out of the job.

“We chose to leave because we thought that our health and the health of our families was more important than this temporary job,” he said.

Martha Denton and Naomi Paasch also left with Spanjer. All three were members of the Democratic-Non Partisan League (NPL), but said that wearing a mask shouldn’t be a political issue.

“I would say that the supervisors should have enforced [personal protection equipment] and required the workers to wear it,” Denton said.

Both said there was some push back by some becoming adamant on not wearing masks, despite masks and gloves being offered for free.

“You're a member of society and you have to do what's good for society. So it's a public health, it's not a political issue,” Paasch said.

Paasch said she has an underlying health condition and staying wasn’t a risk she was willing to take.

“I'm deeply concerned that if I were to contract the virus that I would not make it,” Paasch said.

Throughout the afternoon on Monday, several people arrived at the Cass County Courthouse to drop off their mail-in ballots for the June primary.

According to the Cass County Election Coordinator, they’ve had a record number of people submit ballots.

Still, Election Coordinator DeAnn Buckhouse told Valley News Live those three judges leaving won’t impact counting ballots.

Buckhouse said she’s relying on guidance from Fargo Cass Public Health and can’t force election judges to wear masks.

So far, the county has received more than 22,000 ballots, according to Buckhouse.