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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
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Supreme Court Keeps N. Dakota Voter-ID Law in Force

The Supreme Court late Tuesday kept North Dakota’s new voter ID requirements in place, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned of a serious risk of disenfranchisement.

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court late Tuesday kept North Dakota’s new voter ID requirements in place, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg warned of a serious risk of disenfranchisement.

Joined in the dissent by Justice Elena Kagan, Ginsburg complained that the Eighth Circuit omitted critical details in finding that one month is enough for to “adapt” to the new regime.

“That observation overlooks specific factfindings by the District Court: (1) 70,000 North Dakota residents — almost 20% of the turnout in a regular quadrennial election — lack a qualifying ID; and (2) approximately 18,000 North Dakota residents also lack supplemental documentation sufficient to permit them to vote without a qualifying ID,” Ginsburg wrote.

North Dakota has not protested a requirement from the District Court that it allow more informal supplemental documents, but Ginsburg said such relief alone “scarcely cures the problem given the all too real risk of grand-scale voter confusion.”

“True, an order by this Court vacating the stay would be yet another decision that disrupts the status quo as the election draws ever closer,” Ginsburg wrote. “But the confusion arising from vacating the stay would at most lead to voters securing an additional form of ID. That inconvenience pales in comparison to the confusion caused by the Eighth Circuit’s order, which may lead to voters finding out at the polling place that they cannot vote because their formerly valid ID is now insufficient.”

Six members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa residing in North Dakota initiated the legal battle earlier this year, claiming that the state overly burdened them by requiring voters to provide a valid form of identification that contains the voter’s legal name, current residential street address and date of birth.

Securing an injunction against part of the law, these challengers persuaded a federal judge that the requirement for a residential address — as opposed to a mailing address — unduly required them to maintain an interest in real property.

The Eighth Circuit entered the stay here on Sept. 24, however, after finding that the injunction would cause irreparable harm to the upcoming election on Nov. 6.

Ginsburg emphasized in her dissent Tuesday meanwhile “that the injunction 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.”

“Reasonable voters may well assume that the IDs allowing them to vote in the primary election would remain valid in the general election,” she added.

The Supreme Court does divulge vote tallies for orders on stays such as these, but the justices have the option to sign on to dissents as Kagan did here. It is unclear if the any other justice voted against the stay.

The order reveals that the newly inducted Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not take part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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Categories / Civil Rights, Government, Politics

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