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Native American tribe sues to overturn North Dakota voter ID law


By Jessie Higgins, UPI

A Native American tribe has sued North Dakota in a last-ditch effort to suspend the state's voter ID law in time for Tuesday's election.

The suit, filed late Tuesday by the Spirit Lake Tribe, alleges that the state law will prevent some Native Americans from voting.

North Dakota requires voters to show government-issued identification that includes their residential addresses before casting a ballot. Many homes on reservations do not have valid street addresses, the suit alleges.

"Reservation addresses in the state's database are inconsistent, inaccurate and uncertain," said Matthew Campbell, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, which is representing the Spirit Lake Tribe. "Homes are listed on streets identified as 'unknown' and in towns that are off the reservations."

North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger declined to comment on the pending litigation.

This is the second time a Native American tribe has tried to overturn the state law.

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued in December. In that case, a federal judge blocked the state from enforcing the residential address portion of the law in April -- in time for the primary elections. But the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals removed the lower court's order in September. The tribe filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to reverse that decision. The high court declined to hear the case.

North Dakota's law allows Native Americans to present either state or tribal government-issued ID that includes their names, dates of birth and addresses. If the ID does not include an address, voters can bring recent mail received at the person's address.

After the high court declined to hear the case on Oct. 9, groups mobilized to help Native Americans obtain the necessary documentation to vote, according to the complaint. They quickly discovered that some Native Americans were unable to meet the state requirements.

"The defendant has assured [the court] that it could fairly administer this law," the suit said. "The facts on the ground, which are rapidly developing and worsening by the day, show otherwise. Voters whose state-issued or tribal IDs list what they know to be their current residential address have had their absentee ballot rejected as having 'invalid' addresses."

The problems are many, the suit said. Some houses have no government-assigned address. If they do, some Native Americans don't know them. Few roads in rural areas of reservations have street signs.

In other cases, the same house may be assigned multiple, conflicting addresses by different government agencies. That means that the address a person uses to receive mail -- which appears on their ID -- differs from the one the government has on file.

"State policies should be designed to make it easier for all citizens to vote," said Danielle Lang, an attorney with Campaign Legal Center, which is also representing the tribe. "We have a choice between a democracy that includes all eligible voters and a system that excludes people based on their circumstances or backgrounds. Unless the court steps in, eligible Native American voters including our clients may be denied the right to vote next week."


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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: Native American tribe sues to overturn North Dakota voter ID law
Native American tribe sues to overturn North Dakota voter ID law
U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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