Voter Suppression in North Dakota

November 9, 2018

On October 9th, the Supreme Court allowed, through a ruling on a case, a new voter identification requirement to take action in North Dakota. This prohibits many tribal groups from voting, as North Dakota is home to many Native American tribes. The new law states that voters must have identification cards that show their names, birth dates, and residential addresses. Most Native Americans do not have addresses; they have P.O. boxes. With such a short time before the midterm election. This law prohibits about 5% of 750,000 people who live in North Dakota from voting less than three weeks before Election Day. Many students in the community deem this new law as unfair. Willem Hale from the XIIIs says, “The best part of America is the freedom to express one's opinion, but when things like this happen it really makes you wonder if America is holding their end of the bargain.”

Democrat Heidi Heitkamp is running for an extremely crucial re-election. If she loses, the Democrats have an even smaller chance of taking control of the Senate in a state where Trump won by 36 points.  Heitkamp is already low in the polls and now that Native Americans have been prohibited from voting, she has lost one of the main support groups that lead her to win in 2012.

Republicans in North Dakota have been promoting this change since 2013. In fact, the state legislature began debating the voter I.D. law within months of Heidi Heitkamp’s first election in 2012. Until recently, courts have blocked implementations of requiring residential addresses on I.D. cards, saying that it unfairly targeted Native Americans. Republican members of North Dakota’s Senate say that they know many native tribes lack street addresses, but never the less, the law states that one must have these requirements in order to vote.

Advocacy groups have been holding meetings with tribal leaders on all of North Dakota’s tribal grounds, trying to help them get street addresses to regain the right to vote. This law prohibits approximately 37500 North Dakotans from voting, which only benefits the Republican side of the Senate. They have resorted to with-drawing voters rights just to seize the courts.

 

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