Native American tribe sues to stop ND voter ID law
A Native American tribe is suing to stop North Dakota’s new voter identification law before the midterm election vote next week, saying that the law disenfranchises voters living on reservations.
The complaint centers around a state voter ID law that requires voters to provide a form of identification that includes their legal name, current street address and date of birth. The plaintiffs say the street address requirement poses a unique challenge to Native Americans who live on reservations or in rural areas, as the street names and residential addressees there have been assigned in incomplete or inconsistent ways.
The federally-recognized Spirit Lake Tribe filed a complaint Tuesday against North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger that reads: “Jaeger’s implementation of the residential address requirement has imposed severe—sometimes insurmountable—burdens on the right to vote for many voters on reservations.”
“These burdens violate the First Amendment,” the court document reads.
The tribe wants the court to rule the law “violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments” of the Constitution. It’s seeking an injunction that would keep the law from being enforced on November 6, when voters will head to the polls for the midterm elections.
The secretary of state’s office said it did not comment on pending litigation.
Jaeger defended the law in an interview before the complaint was filed this week, saying that the law is not meant to disenfranchise Native American voters but rather to “establish the credibility of the election process.”
“The people who live on the reservations, their tribal government can give them a piece of letterhead, that would be tribal sanctioned, and if they say that this is the name, the residential address, and the birthdate, that’s accepted at the polls. That’s pretty easy,” Jaeger told CNN’s Drew Griffin.
Many Native Americans “simply have no residential address because the government has not assigned them one. Others have been assigned an address, but it was never communicated to them,” the court document reads.
“Rarely will one encounter a road sign in rural areas of reservations,” the court document continues. Many roads have been assigned “multiple, conflicting names,” the complaint reads, and many houses have “multiple, conflicting numbers.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the implementation of this voter ID law.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a dissent joined by Justice Elena Kagan, warned that the ruling could disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, including both Native Americans and non-Native Americans, in a state where the voting-age population is only about 600,000, citing a district court’s findings.