North Dakota Is Entering “No Longer a Democracy” Territory With Its Latest Efforts to Disenfranchise Native Americans


A stringent new law that requires all voters to prove their residential street address has placed an immense burden on Native Americans in the state. Many live on rural reservations in houses with no residential address, rendering them incapable of casting a ballot.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a lower court decision upholding this rule, over a pointed dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now Native American voters are back in court, asking a federal judge to grant them relief. This time, they aren’t just arguing that the law makes voting more onerous. They’ve demonstrated that the law may make it impossible for them to vote at all.

The new lawsuit, filed on Tuesday by the Campaign Legal Center, the Native American Rights Fund, and Robins Kaplan, vividly illustrates how Native American voters have wound up disenfranchised. For decades, North Dakotans could vote with a valid residential or mailing address, which allowed rural tribal voters to use their P.O. Box as identification.

After Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp triumphed in 2012 by fewer than 3,000 votes, Republicans altered the law. Heitkamp won with strong support from Native Americans, so the GOP passed legislation that targeted their access to the franchise. The new law compels voters to present an ID at the polls that lists their current residential (not mailing) address—or, if voting by absentee ballot, provide one that corresponds to a state database.

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