Group tries to ensure Native Americans vote in North Dakota

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Native American voting rights group says it will work to ensure that all Native Americans in North Dakota can vote in November despite a voter identification requirement that many see as a hurdle.

The group Four Directions, led by members of South Dakota’s Rosebud Sioux Tribe, is working with North Dakota tribal governments to help place an official at every reservation polling place, the Bismarck Tribune reported. The tribal official can help eligible voters who lack the required identification.

North Dakota now mandates that voters provide an ID with a street address, but many living on reservations have post office boxes listed as their residential address.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently rejected an emergency appeal challenging the state’s voter ID law.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe said this week that North Dakota’s law prevents thousands of Native Americans in the state from voting.

“There is no good reason” that a P.O. box address isn’t sufficient to vote, said Tribal Chairman Mike Faith.

“Why is it getting harder and harder for Native Americans to vote? This law clearly discriminates against Native Americans in North Dakota,” Faith said. “Our voices should be heard and they should be heard fairly at the polls just like all other Americans.”

Bret Healy, a consultant for Four Directions, said the group has a common-sense solution for the issue.

Tribal officials can issue a tribal voting letter with the eligible voter’s name, date of birth and residential address at polling locations on reservations.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum confirmed this week that a letter from tribal officials containing that information would be considered a valid tribal ID.

Silrum said his office has been working to inform tribal leaders about how they can vote. If information on an ID isn’t current, the ID can be supplemented with other documentation, such as a recent utility bill. Voters without the right documentation on Election Day can also cast a ballot that’s set aside and the voter has a week to provide the documentation, Silrum said.


Information from: Bismarck Tribune,