On April 24, 2017, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed House Bill 1369. This restrictive voter ID law put North Dakota beyond the norms of voter ID laws and violates the constitutional rights of the state’s citizens. Just like North Dakota’s previous law, which was found unconstitutional by a federal court, this law makes it harder for some citizens—specifically Native American citizens—to exercise their right to vote.
On December 13, 2017, the Native American Rights Fund again brought action against the state of North Dakota seeking to overturn North Dakota’s newest discriminatory voter ID law.
The case made its way through the courts, and on October 9, 2018 the US Supreme Court denied NARF’s emergency application to stop the State of North Dakota from implementing a discriminatory voter ID law. After the 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.
Now, voters in North Dakota may find when they go to the polls in November that the voter ID that they used in the primary just a few months earlier is no longer accepted because it does not include their current residential address. In this case, Native American voters will be especially affected because they often lack residential street addresses because their homes do not have addresses on them by no fault of their own.
According to NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León, “Access to voting should not be dependent on whether one lives in a city or on a reservation. The District Court in North Dakota has found this voter identification law to be discriminatory; nothing in the law has changed since that finding. North Dakota Native American voters will now have to vote under a system that unfairly burdens them more than other voters. We will continue to fight this discriminatory law.”