James MacPherson / AP
Native American groups in North Dakota are struggling to help members get new addresses and new IDs in the few weeks that remain before the election day – the only way some residents can vote.
This week, the Supreme Court refused to override the controversial voter identity law of North Dakota, requiring residents to be identified with a current street address. A P.O. subject is not eligible.
However, many native American reservations do not use physical street addresses. Native Americans are also overrepresented in the homeless population, according to the Stedelijk Institute. As a result, indigenous residents often use P.O. boxes for their postal addresses and can rely on tribe identification that does not mention an address.
Those IDs were previously accepted at polling stations – even in this year's primary elections – but are not valid for the general election. And that decision became final less than a month before the election day, after years of confusing court battles and changes to the requirements.
Tens of thousands of North Dakotans, including indigenous and non-native residents, have no home address on their IDs and find it more difficult to vote.
They will have the opportunity to prove their residency with "additional documentation" such as utility bills, but according to court reports about 18,000 North Dakotans do not have documents, one of both.
And in North Dakota every resident can vote without pre-registration of the voter – so people may not discover the problem until they appear to cast their vote.
North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a democrat, runs after her Republican opponent in her race for re-election. Native Americans generally vote for Democrats.
The state government controlled by the republican says that the voter ID requirement is necessary to connect voters with the right vote and to prevent non-North Dakota's signing up for North Dakota P.O. boxes and travel to the state to vote fraudulently. In 2016, a judge who annulled the law remarked that voter fraud in North Dakota & # 39; virtually does not exist.
The state government says that residents without a street ID should contact the 911 coordinator of their province to sign up for a free street address and request a letter confirming this address.
A group called Native Vote ND has shared these official instructions on Facebook.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe tells members to contact them if they need help in obtaining a residential address and updating their tribe ID. The tribe also says that it will send drivers to take voters to the polls on the election day.
"Native Americans can live on the reservations without an address, they live in accordance with the law and treaties, but now they suddenly can not vote," said Standing Rock chairman Mike Faith in a statement. "Our voices must be heard, and they must be honestly heard in the polls like all the other Americans."
Meanwhile, The Bismarck Tribune reports that an Indian organization is working on a last-minute solution for voters who would otherwise be turned away:
"Bret Healy, a consultant for Four Directions, led by members of Southbudota's Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said the organization believes it has a common sense.
"The group cooperates with tribal chiefs in North Dakota to have an official government official available at each polling station at reservations to issue a tribal ballot containing the name, date of birth and home address of the eligible voter."
A state official told tribal chiefs that such letters will be accepted as proof of residency, the Stand reports.
Heitkamp called the ID law "heavy" and once again called for a law to protect the voting rights of Native Americans. They and other legislators have introduced such a bill year by year, but without success.
"Given the number of Indians who have served, fought and died for this country, it is terrible that some people are still trying to create barriers to suppress their ability to vote," Heitkamp said in a statement. "Native Americans served in the army before they even voted and they continue to serve the highest percentage of all populations in this country."
The American Civil Liberties Union said that the decision of the Supreme Court allowed "massive disenfranchisement". "In an election that can be decided with only a few thousand votes, the court's decision could have profound implications for the country, not just those who live in North Dakota," the reporter Ashoka Mukpo wrote Friday.
In 2016, the Harvard Law Review found that indigenous Americans routinely face obstacles in exercising the right to vote and obtain representation & # 39; and that the law on voting rights of 1965 was only a partial solution to the problem.