North Dakota Voter ID Law Discriminates, Must Offer Alternatives Like South Dakota’s Affidavit

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.

22 Responses to North Dakota Voter ID Law Discriminates, Must Offer Alternatives Like South Dakota’s Affidavit

  1. mike from iowa

    Kansas had their voter suppression knuckles rapped, too.

  2. barry freed

    The Affidavit is still suppressing votes as one has to literally argue with the poll workers to find out such a thing exists and is questioned why one would want one. Also, in my polling place, there are a dozen signs that say you MUST show ID to vote and not one that speaks of the Right to an affidavit.

  3. Barry, I would agree that the barriers you list do suppress votes and that election officials should make the affidavit option much more accessible to interested voters. A statutory option doesn’t mean much if election officials don’t offer it.

    Interestingly, in all of the elections when I have asked for an affidavit, I have never been questioned.

  4. If you never measure something, you cannot say whether it happens or not.

    New York City’s own Department of Investigation found it was ludicrously easy to commit voter fraud; they had a 97% success rate.

    New Hampshire also had an internal investigation which demonstrated out easy it was to commit voter fraud.

    Voter ID requirements are the best defense against sloppy voter registration rosters.

  5. mike from iowa

    Wayne B-where did you get your 97% figure and from what year?

    The 2013 investigation said it wasn’t about voter fraud,but a system that needed to be overhauled.

  6. Measure twice, cut once—Republicans are cutting voter rights without measuring.

  7. It’s from the 2013 investigation – 63 attempts, 61 successfully acquired ballots = 96.8%

    I agree the system needs to be overhauled. I bet South Dakota’s voter rosters are also clotted with the dead, felons, and folks who’ve moved away. The difference is it’s going to be harder to cast a vote as someone you’re not in South Dakota because we require an ID.

    The DOI report may have been targeting an overhaul, but it’s pretty clear their investigators never would have been able to acquire and submit ballots under false identities with a voter ID law in place.

  8. mike from iowa

    However, the BOE provided data from its state counterpart showing that 39 of the cases where “dead” voters cast ballots, the Board never received a death notice from the Health Department so the names could be removed from the rolls.

    A mismatch in middle names led to 10 more people not being flagged as deceased; in three cases where the city Board did get information that a voter had died, the names were removed.

  9. What’s your point, Mike?

    The information you’re providing isn’t providing a compelling reason to refrain from voter ID restrictions. Quite the contrary.

    The BOE’s processes for updating voter registration relies largely on other departments submitting correct information and then acting on that information.

    I’m actually OK with rosters being a little heavy on the dead and moved cohort; I’d rather we err on the side of not removing someone so we don’t accidentally disenfranchise someone because we erroneously thought they were dead.

    Given that empirically, the rosters will have a number of people who are dead or have moved, the best method to ensure people who a legally able to vote can vote without accidentally disenfranchising people, is to require voter ID.

    Now, I certainly don’t want to disenfranchise people who have a legal right to vote. Since ND passed a law requiring an address, and the tribal ID of the Chippewa didn’t have one, the easiest fix is to work with the tribe to re-issue tribal IDs which include a home address.

    Alternatively, excluding home address from the ID requirement would be sufficient.

  10. bearcreekbat

    What would be the motive “to cast a vote as someone you’re not?” The only reason I can think of would have to be based on one of Alex Jones’ many imaginary conspiracy theories, otherwise I can’t think of any rational reason for an individual “to cast a vote as someone you’re not.”

  11. mike from iowa

    My point is-the states that passed new restrictive voter i.d.s would not have prevented the types of voter fraud they claim are rampant. I believe every objective study proved that point.

    Red state wingnuts don’t care about voter fraud being done by liberal voters. They are more concerned perpetrating voter fraud on legal Dem voters by making it next to impossible for minorities to get i.d.s.

  12. mike from iowa

    p.s. No states have been able to prove voter fraud even exists, so there is/was no need for draconian laws to be made.

  13. The rosters may be so clotted, but are the actual ballot boxes?

  14. Mike, can you link me to some “objective studies” showing states with voter ID laws don’t actually stop voter fraud? How is that possible if there’s no evidence of voter fraud actually taking place?

    Again, this goes back to my challenge about measuring.

    We don’t know the prevalence of voter fraud because we’re not looking for it, and we don’t have a good way to identify it if it were indeed happening.

    So the next best thing is to see how easy it is to do. When that’s done in states like New York and New Hamphsire, it was very easy to accomplish. New Hampshire then implemented voter ID laws, and it was much more difficult to impersonate someone.

    Bearcreekbat, the motive is simple – to influence the outcome of an election. If 10 people voted for Mayor in every district of Sioux Falls, that’s what, 80 extra votes for the candidate you like? If they didn’t have electronic verification, those people could potentially vote at every precinct voting station – that’s 58 locations, or 580 votes. Without a voter ID law, the person can even impersonate a living, registered voter; thus denying that person’s ability to vote when they show up at the polls later in the day.

    Cory, you seem pretty sanguine about the potential for fraud, yet you’re a firm advocate of background checks and IDs for gun ownership. Truly, someone like Trump can do a lot more damage than all the mass shooters during the entire Obama presidency, yet you don’t worry he might try to buy this election? All he needs are a few battleground states.

    And again, you were complaining about a 10% bias towards the first person on the ballot, which our system abates by randomly drawing who will be first. Yet you don’t agree with voter ID laws, even when it’s empirically proven that fraud can easily take place in states that don’t have them. Why?

  15. Wayne: “the easiest fix is to work with the tribe to re-issue tribal IDs which include a home address.”

    Actually, the “easiest fix” is to do away with voter ID requirements. Even if you get the Tribe to update their IDs, there will still be a contingent of Native Americans which simply won’t have one (estimates seem to suggest this could be as many as 1/4 of all Native Americans). Taken a step further, since these ID cards are not drivers licenses, there is always a chance these voters show up to the polls only to find out they don’t have their ID handy. Turning them away from the voting booth because they lack a ID is the very definition of voter suppression.

    There is a reason so many of these laws are being tossed out in court… because they are discriminatory and clearly target the poor, the elderly, and minority populations.

    Also Wayne, keep in mind the NYC DOI had access to databases of voters when they performed their testing. So they knew the names, addresses, birthdates etc. of these individuals and knew they were still listed in the voter registration rolls. Then they were able to impersonate these people with this information in order to vote as someone else. A regular citizen who wishes to commit voter fraud would not have this access. If they were unable state a name and address of someone who was actually on the voter rolls they wouldn’t be able to vote anyway. Thus your reference to fraud needs to be taken in context.

    There is no evidence that widespread voter fraud has been an issue nor has there been any evidence to suggest voter ID laws are meant to combat this fraud. If someone wants a new law to prevent fraud – the first step is to actually bother to document proven cases of said fraud. Until that happens, it is safe to assume this was never about actually preventing voter fraud and instead is just about voter suppression.

  16. Craig,

    I agree the DOI had the upper hand with access to voter registration rosters. But those datasets are available to the public. Campaigns have rosters; that’s how they know which doors to knock on and get signatures.

    Again, there’s “no evidence” because we don’t seem to be looking for it, and when it is found, it’s always an “isolated incident.” I’m not even sure how you can prove systemic voter fraud is taking place if it were. Better to ensure that each of us only gets one vote than to hope none of us are voting more than once.

    The Elections Assistance Commission could mobilize grant moneys to help those most at risk of being disenfranchised and assist them get registered. That would fulfill their initiative to increase access.

  17. mike from iowa

    How many you want? I’d like you to show me a state that can document voter fraud during or after an election.

  18. “Again, there’s “no evidence” because we don’t seem to be looking for it”

    I can’t agree with this. We hear cases of voter fraud almost every election cycle. We have even seen cases right here in South Dakota where people have been convicted of voter fraud (I recall a man in Mitchell just a few years ago who decided to vote twice). The fact is, I have yet to see – ever – a situation where there was widespread voter fraud which would have shifted the results of an election. I’m sure people sometimes do vote when they shouldn’t, and I’m sure there are people out there who go out of their way to vote as a dead person just to support their candidate, but we are talking about a fraction of a percent of all votes cast.

    Here is the simple reality. If someone believes voter fraud is an issue, then the onus is upon them to prove it before pushing for legislation addressing a problem which hasn’t been shown to exist. Please – let’s not pretend these laws are intended to eliminate voter fraud when there has been zero focus on auditing electronic voting machines and no attempt to even quantify the actual issue.

    It has always been about voter suppression. Much like gerrymandering, superdelegates, or the electoral college, this is just another way for politicians to attempt to shift the balance of power in their direction without having to rely upon democracy.

  19. mike from iowa


    There is no credible evidence that in-person impersonation voter fraud — the only type of fraud that photo IDs could prevent – is even a minor problem.

  20. bearcreekbat

    Wayne, I understand that the idea would be to influence an election. My point is that absent an Alex Jones’ style conspiracy, no one in their right mind would believe they could influence the outcome of an election by voting under other persons’ names, even if they had the energy and funds to attempt to vote in multiple districts or in different counties.

    Find me a conspiracy where Democrats recruit groups of individuals and pay them to vote under other folks’ names and chances are they can be prosecuted for an illegal conspiracy without the need for voter ID laws. Anyone who genuinely suspects that is happening in SD needs to look at the makeup of our legislature and elected officials – this conspiracy has not been particularly successful or effective in getting Democrats in office.

  21. mike from iowa

    Doesn’t happen and when it does it is usually a simple mistake with no intent of fraud.

  22. barry freed

    We are using these machines in November.