North Dakota Agrees to Issue IDs so Tribes Can Vote in Elections

(CN) – Native American voters in North Dakota will have an easier time at polling places after the state agreed to settle two tribes’ lawsuit over laws that restricted voters without proper identification.

The state agreed to the settlement immediately following a federal judge’s decision to deny the state’s request to dismiss claims brought by the Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

(AP Photo/Blake Nicholson, File)

North Dakota is one of the least restrictive states in the U.S. on voting, as the sole state that does not require registration to cast a ballot in state and federal elections. However, the North Dakota voter ID law required voters to present valid identification listing a residential address.

The tribes argued in their complaint that this law placed a heavy burden on Native American voters living on the reservation for several reasons, including homelessness and the state’s failure to assign residential addresses to some homes on reservations.

The settlement requires North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger to run a joint effort with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to distribute non-driver photo IDs on every reservation within 30 days of a statewide election.

Jaeger’s office issued a joint statement under the settlement with the Spirit Lake and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes.

“The consent decree will ensure all Native Americans who are qualified electors can vote, relieve certain burdens on the tribes related to determining residential street addresses for their tribal members and issuing tribal IDs, and ensure ongoing cooperation through mutual collaboration between the state and the tribes to address concerns or issues that may arise in the future,” the joint statement says.

Both the plaintiffs’ legal counsel and Jaeger have signed and accepted the settlement. If the tribes agree, it will end the yearslong legal battles over the voter ID law.

“This fight has been ongoing for over four years, and we are delighted to come to an agreement that protects native voters,” said Matthew Campbell, attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.  “It has always been our goal to ensure that every native person in North Dakota has an equal opportunity to vote, and we have achieved that today. We thank the Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the individual native voters that stood up for the right to vote.”

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