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.
Citizens in 1924 whether wanted or not. In ND we had to give up our tribal enrollment to vote. We didn’t. We couldn’t vote officially til the 1965 Voting Rights Act. https://t.co/XL6HbYwk1v
— ND Native Vote (@NDNativeVote) October 18, 2018
However the Supreme Court—in a split decision—ruled to uphold the North Dakota voter ID law without an explanation.
— NARF (@NDNrights) October 10, 2018
Outrageous/Unjust. R’s in North Dakota make it harder for Native Americans to vote. Requiring street address when many of them use P.O. Boxes in rural areas. Supreme Court allows. Law passed after Heitkamp won last time. Nothing more than voter suppression https://t.co/Nu1yWOsaPi
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 9, 2018
So much has been taken from Native American communities over the centuries. And now North Dakota is taking their right to vote. Shameful.https://t.co/R1zVw0bBMs
— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) October 16, 2018
— A.A.I.A. (@IndianAffairs) October 14, 2018
North Dakota GOP passed voter ID after Dem Sen. Heidi Heitkamp won by just 2,881 votes in 2012’s Senate race. It’s conceivable she would have lost had this law been in effect then, & it could flip #NDsen to the GOP in 2018 in a close election https://t.co/yfGAYbL1Bg
— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) October 10, 2018
After the disappointing decision by the SCOTUS to uphold targeted voter suppression, the Tribes and Native rights groups fought back.
— NARF (@NDNrights) October 15, 2018
— NARF (@NDNrights) October 15, 2018
BREAKING: Native Americans push back on North Dakota voter ID rule, announcing in a new statement they will issue street address documents at polling locations to members who need them. pic.twitter.com/tukNkgrV18
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) October 18, 2018
If anything good can come of the voter suppression on NoDak Native Americans, may it rally Indian Country to the polls in record numbers. Civil liberties aren’t attacked without reason. The #NativeVote is potent for all the reasons spelled out here: https://t.co/sdzUXyAjr6
— Jenni Monet (@jennimonet) October 17, 2018
One minor positive–I’m loving seeing all these Native bylines. Can we keep this up forever, please?
— Dr. Adrienne Keene (@NativeApprops) October 17, 2018
— Raw Story (@RawStory) October 18, 2018
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.