BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) – A federal judge in North Dakota on Thursday denied a request by the Spirit Lake Indian Tribe to block the state’s newly implemented voter ID laws, finding that doing so would “cause as much confusion as it would alleviate.”
The initial complaint filed this week says many Native voters lack documented street addresses, which North Dakota now requires proof of at the polls.
“Native American voters have the same fundamental right to vote as every other North Dakotan. The Constitution guarantees that right. But the state’s law requiring voters to present identification proving their current residential address imposes on them, and uniquely on them, a severe impediment to that right,” the tribe says in its complaint.
According to the complaint, implementation of North Dakota’s voter ID law targets North Dakota’s roughly 30,000 Indians by rejecting ballots due to lack of registered addresses. The tribe says the state never gave addresses to its members in the first place.
“This problem threatens hundreds if not thousands more on Election Day. And Native Americans uniquely lack access to supplemental documentation to satisfy the state’s requirement,” the tribe says in its complaint. “Moreover, many Native Americans simply have no residential address because the government has not assigned them one.”
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland saw it differently in Thursday’s ruling and denied the tribe’s request for an emergency stay of the law.
“In this case, early voting has already begun,” Hovland wrote in a 2-page order. “Election day is less than one week away. The allegations in the complaint, the motion for a temporary restraining order and the attached affidavits give this court great cause for concern.”
Hovland said staying the law would “create as much confusion as it would alleviate, and is foreclosed by precedent which is hesitant to permit ‘eleventh-hour changes to election laws.’”
The Eighth Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court have already declined to block the voter ID law in a challenge brought by members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, despite a federal judge’s finding some 70,000 North Dakotans lack a qualifying ID and 18,000 lack supplemental documentation sufficient to let them vote without an ID.