Unofficial primary election results: Publication of meeting minutes passes in Belfield, South Heart

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Jun. 15—STARK COUNTY, N.D. — On Tuesday, the unofficial results of the primary election saw a total of 2,889 ballots cast. On the ballot, there were two measures that asked southwest residents in Belfield and South Heart whether they wanted to continue publishing their public meeting minutes in the newspaper of record. Both measures passed with a massive percentage of the vote.

The first measure on the ballot was a Belfield question which posited, "Shall the City of Belfield publish the minutes of the city council meeting in the newspaper?" The options were, "Yes, means you approve the measure as summarized above," and "No, means you reject the measure as summarized above." This measure passed with 77% voting "Yes," and 23% voting "No."

The second measure on the ballot was a South Heart School question that posited, "Shall the South Heart School Board publish school board meeting minutes in a newspaper of general circulation for the next two years?" The options were, "Yes, means you approve the measure as summarized above," and "No, means you reject the measure as summarized above." This measure passed with 88% voting "Yes," with 12% voting "No."

For local southwest publications, the measures are a way to ensure the maintained transparency in communities, for its residents and elected officials, The Dickinson Press Publisher Joy Schoch said.

"Local news about tax increases or zoning decisions are rarely so interesting that it trends, but it is important for the everyday lives of southwest North Dakotans. When local newspapers fail, the communities they serve are often left without any oversight on the actions of elected officials and taxpayer funds," Schoch said. "So we appreciate that the residents of South Heart and Belfield recognize the importance of keeping meeting minutes in their The Dickinson Press with their vote on Tuesday, and I thank them for their continued support of transparency and accountability in government."

Editor James B. Miller, Jr., of The Dickinson Press reflected on the unofficial results of the June 14 primary election and how crucial it is for governmental bodies to maintain that accountability with its tax paying residents.

"It's commendable that the voters on Tuesday made the choice to continue to hold the principle of transparency to heart. Having meeting minutes published in a newspaper provides residents with a credible and comprehensive source of local notice so that they may become involved with the decision making in their community," Miller said. "Studies have found that governmental bodies who do not publish their meeting minutes in a newspaper often have higher governmental inefficiency and increased taxes for residents. Belfield and South Heart residents overwhelmingly voted to keep their government entities accountable on Tuesday."