Photo of sign pointing to polling place with text, Photo ID required

On August 1, 2016, a federal district court enjoined North Dakota’s strict voter ID law and ruled that voters unable to obtain the necessary identification may vote in the upcoming election by completing a declaration or affidavit. The court agreed with the seven Native American voters that the new law disproportionately burdens Native Americans and denies qualified voters the right to vote.

North Dakota House Bills 1332 and 1333 put in place the most restrictive voter ID law in the nation.  Before today’s decision, North Dakota voters were required to present one of only four qualifying IDs with a current residential address printed on it in order to vote.  Before enactment of those laws, North Dakota required a poll clerk to request an ID, but a voter without one could still vote if the clerk vouched for their qualifications or the voter signed an affidavit of identity.  The court’s decision requires North Dakota to reinstitute these kinds of fail-safe provisions for the November election.

Federal Judge Daniel Hovland wrote, “[t]he record is replete with concrete evidence of significant burdens imposed on Native American voters attempting to exercise their right to vote in North Dakota.” Although the state argued that the law was necessary to prevent voter fraud, the court found that there “is a total lack of any evidence to show voter fraud has ever been a problem in North Dakota.” The court concluded that it “is a minimal burden for the State to conduct this year’s election in the same manner it successfully administered elections for decades before the enactment of the new voter ID laws.”

“What we asked for is that all qualified voters have the opportunity to cast a ballot – particularly Native Americans. This ruling is an incredible victory for North Dakota voters as it will ensure that fail-safe mechanisms will be in place in November to protect them” said Matthew Campbell, attorney with the Native American Rights Fund.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), Richard de Bodo of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, and Tom Dickson of the Dickson Law Office.  NARF won important Voting Rights cases in Alaska in 2010 and again in 2015, establishing that the State of Alaska should be required to provide greater language assistance to voters who speak Alaska Native languages.

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