Tribal ID issued with P.O. Box numbers deemed insufficient to vote in North Dakota. Photo of Turtle Mountain BIA Agency
Published October 13, 2018
Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to deny the Native American Rights Fund’s emergency application to stop North Dakota from implementing its discriminatory voter ID law, is seen as major attempt to suppress American Indian voting in the state that proved how racist it is during the Standing Rock resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline.
At issue is the law passed by the majority Republican legislature that requires voters to have a physical address on their IDs when voting versus having simply a post office box number. The problem is on some rural American Indian reservation, particularly those in North Dakota, the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver to residential addresses. Therefore, American Indians on their state-issued IDs, such as drivers’ licenses, personal IDs and tribal card use P.O. box numbers.
From NARF website:
While North Dakota claims that tribal IDs qualify under its law, most tribal IDs do not have a residential address printed on them. This is due, in part, to the fact that the U.S. postal service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities. Thus, most tribal members use a PO Box. If a tribal ID has an address, it is typically the PO Box address, which does not satisfy North Dakota’s restrictive voter ID law. In both the primary and general election in 2014, many qualified North Dakota tribal electors were disenfranchised because they only had a tribal ID.
The law passed by the North Dakota legislature and now supported by the nation’s highest court basically ensures the Native vote will be suppressed.
When challenged by NARF, a U.S. District Court found the law had a disproportionate and discriminatory effect on Native voters, the Eighth Circuit issued an opinion overturning the Court-ordered relief. In so doing, the Eighth Circuit changed the identification laws on the eve of the election and after early voting already had begun. The majority of Supreme Court justices decided to allow the Eighth Circuit decision to stand. However, Justices Ginsburg and Kagan noted in their dissent that:
The risk of voter confusion appears severe here because the injunction against requiring residential-address identification was in force during the primary election and because the Secretary of State’s website announced for months the ID requirements as they existed under that injunction.
Newly confirmed Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not vote on the decision.
North Dakota tribal officials feel as if the GOP enacted law seeks to suppress the Native vote.