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Republicans Are Trying to Disenfranchise Native American Voters in North Dakota, But the Native Community Is Fighting Back With a Unique Plan to Allow Them to Vote

North Dakota Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp speaks during the Tribal Unity Impact Days hosted by the National Congress of American Indians in Dirksen Building on September 12, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

There are five federally recognized Tribes and one Native American community that fall within the borders of North Dakota. While numbers of Native voters are not enough to win an election completely, their support can decide a close race.

In the past, that support went toward helping Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp. Native rights advocates like the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) point to this support as the reason behind a new voter ID requirement in North Dakota.


North Dakota state issued IDs include a person's mailing address. Due to a decision by the United States Postal Service (USPS), Natives living on reservations in North Dakota are issued post office boxes instead of receiving rural mail delivery.

Because of this USPS decision, Native American IDs and other documents typically used to indicate eligibility to vote, such as utility bills, do not include a physical address, but rather a post office box. Republicans in North Dakota pushed through a law adding a physical address requirement be presented at the polls to be able to vote in North Dakota, whether a voter registered and voted previously or not.

The law—which disproportionately affected Native American voters—faced legal challenges due to its voter suppression of a specific block of voters. Native Americans did not have the right to vote in their own homeland until 1924, but Native voting rights came with many strings attached and Natives did not have full voting rights until the late 1960s.

However the Supreme Court—in a split decision—ruled to uphold the North Dakota voter ID law without an explanation.

After the disappointing decision by the SCOTUS to uphold targeted voter suppression, the Tribes and Native rights groups fought back.

And then others jumped in to help raise the funds needed to get all Natives who want to vote the documentation they need to make it happen.

Daily Kos teamed up with North Dakota Native Vote and spread the word of the need for funds to ensure Native American voting rights and combat voter suppression.

On Wednesday, Daily Kos announced they met and exceeded their funding goal.

However the fight is not won. Whether North Dakota accepts the addresses and documentation provided by Native voters is up to the office of North Dakota Secretary of State, Republican Alvin Jaeger.

If Jaeger refuses to accept the addresses from tribal authorities, it raises questions of fundamental government-guaranteed rights and tribal sovereignty. Until election day, pressure needs to stay on North Dakota to ensure Native voting rights are upheld.

Midterm elections are slated for Tuesday, November 6, 2018.