Speed Reads

Voting Rights

Supreme Court upholds North Dakota voter ID law that hits Native Americans, a key Democratic constituency

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld a North Dakota voter ID law that requires proof of residential address, among other forms of identification. The law had been challenged by members of North Dakota's sizable Native American population, many of whom use post office boxes and lack residential addresses. "The U.S. Postal Service does not provide residential delivery in these rural Indian communities," the Native American Rights Fund explains.

A federal judge had struck down much of the 2017 law in April, ruling that it discriminated against Native American voters, but the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals stepped in last month and allowed the law to take effect. Judge Brett Kavanaugh did not participate in the Supreme Court's decision to affirm the appellate ruling, and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented. Ginsburg argued in the dissent that the court should have vacated the 8th Circuit Court's ruling because it was too close to the election, 70,000 North Dakota residents don't have the proper ID and 18,000 of them don't have supplemental documentation allowing them to vote, and "the risk of disfranchisement is large."

The ruling will hurt Sen. Heidi Heitkamp's (D-N.D.) already uphill re-election bid, Mother Jones suggests. "Heitkamp won her seat by less than 3,000 votes in 2012 with strong backing from Native Americans, and she is the only statewide elected Democrat. North Dakota Republicans began changing voting rules to make it harder to cast a ballot months after Heitkamp's victory six years ago." The North Dakota secretary of state's office advises Native Americans and other North Dakotans without a street address to call their county 911 coordinator to begin a "no charge" process of getting a street address and proof of address that should allow them to obtain a valid ID or use as supplemental documentation permitting them to vote in November.