Section 2: County Government

North Dakota is divided into 53 small units of government called counties. The purpose of a county is to help the state government carry out its duties.

Services provided by counties include protecting citizens, setting up elections, collecting taxes on property, building and taking care of roads, and clearing snow.

The Dickey County courthouse

Figure 28. The Dickey County courthouse is located in Ellendale, the county seat. (Neil Howe)

Each county includes a town with a courthouse containing the offices of the county government. This town is called the county seat.

The main governing body of a county is the County Commission. Either three or five persons are elected on nonpartisan (no-party) ballots to serve part-time on this board. They oversee all of the business of the county.

Other county officials are also elected on no-party ballots. The sheriff is responsible for keeping law and order; the state’s attorney is a lawyer who represents the state at the county level; the county recorder is in charge of documents such as deeds; the treasurer is in charge of the funds; and the county auditor is the bookkeeper for the county.

Several county officials are not elected by the voters, but they are appointed by the county commissioners. Examples are the county superintendent of schools, who supervises schools that do not have their own superintendent, and the county agent, who provides advice and assistance in agricultural matters.

North Dakota has 53 counties

Figure 29. North Dakota has 53 counties. Each county (in blue) has a county seat (in red) where government offices are located. (SHSND-ND Studies)