Native American Voters in North Dakota Turn ID Law to Their Advantage
Under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. As The Beat DC reported earlier this month, many Native Americans rely on P.O. boxes, which the court has ruled is no longer valid. Supporters of the rule say it is needed to prevent voter fraud. However, Native Americans note that state officials have not confirmed any pattern of fraud and call it an attempt at voter suppression. There are at least 30,000 Native Americans in North Dakota. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who’s running for re-election, won her seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Now this go-round, despite the new address rule, tribal governments are working feverishly to provide the necessary identification. Some Native Americans believe their anger could actually fuel higher turnout. The NYT reports that tribes have extended their office hours and worked around the clock to find efficient ways to assign addresses and issue identification. They are providing hundreds of free IDs when they would normally charge at least $5 to $10 apiece. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians printed so many IDs that the machine overheated and started melting the cards. “What people out there don’t understand is how much it costs a tribe to make sure that each and every individual tribal member has that right to vote,” said OJ Semans, Co-Executive Director of Four Directions, a Native American voting rights group working with tribal leaders. “The tribes have invested thousands of dollars, whether it’s equipment, man-hours, meetings. This has not come cheap.” More here.