Wisconsin, Texas—now North Dakota loses a court battle over a restrictive voter ID law passed by Republicans to suppress minority voters. In 2013, North Dakota’s GOP legislative majority passed a law narrowing the types of ID voters can present to vote, required those IDs to show a current address, and removed the alternatives of either swearing an oath or having a poll worker vouch for one’s identity. Federal Judge Daniel L. Hovland ruled for the Turtle Mountain Chippewa plaintiffs who challenged the law as discriminatory:
Hovland wrote that “undisputed statistics and studies support the finding that, given the disparities in living conditions, it is not surprising that North Dakota’s new voter ID laws are having and will continue to have a disproportionately negative impact on Native American voting-eligible citizens.”
He cited expert witness who testified that almost one-quarter of eligible Native American voters do not have proper voting identification, compared with 12 percent for non-Native American Indians. The judge also wrote that only 78 percent of Native Americans have a driver’s license that they could potentially use as voter identification, compared with 94 percent of non-Natives [James MacPherson, “Judge Blocks North Dakota’s Voter Identification Law,” Bismarck Tribune, 2016.08.01].
Judge Hovland found no evidence of voter fraud that could justify this suppression of voter rights:
“The record is replete with concrete evidence of significant burdens imposed on Native American voters attempting to exercise their right to vote,” Judge Hovland wrote.
Nor, he stated, was there any evidence that the state needed such a restrictive ID policy.
“To the contrary,” he wrote, “the record before the court reveals that the secretary of state acknowledged in 2006 that he was unaware of any voter fraud in North Dakota” [Michael Wines, “Federal Judge Bars North Dakota from Enforcing Restrictive Voter ID Law,” New York Times, 2016.08.01].
As with the Wisconsin and Texas rulings, the North Dakota ruling won’t affect South Dakota voter ID law, because we maintain that critical alternative, allowing voters to sign an affidavit swearing their identity instead of presenting a drivers license or other ID. But the ruling does remind us that Republicans crying “voter fraud!” are usually blowing smoke to disguise their own voter suppression.