On Tuesday, the Supreme Court chose to continue the war against the elections. Just less than a month before the mid-term elections that will control Congress, the court decided not to block the restrictive electoral law of North Dakota, making it more difficult for people in that state to vote.
Republicans in the state legislature maintain that the law is necessary to prevent voter fraud – even though there is virtually no evidence that such fraud is a problem. Instead, the real effect of their law will be to prevent voters who fear them from going to the polls and having their say in who represents them.
The voter ID law was introduced only a few months after Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, in 2012 issued a narrow upset victory, won with less than 3,000 votes. Republican lawmakers responded by passing restrictive voter identity laws that almost certainly suggested that large numbers of Indians – who tend to vote democratically – would not be able to participate in the political process. In particular, the law requires that voters send a poll to the poll that shows a "current residential street address" or other additional documentation that provides evidence of such an address.
This may seem like a harmless requirement, but in practice it will probably desecrate thousands of Indians, many of whom live on reserves in rural areas and have no street addresses. Since the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver residential mail deliveries in remote areas, many members of the Native American tribes of North Dakota mention their postal addresses, such as P.O. boxes, on their IDs. And some do not have additional documentation, such as an energy bill or bank statement, because of homelessness or poverty. Now, because the Supreme Court refused to block the law, people who show up at their polling station with a P.O. box on their ID will be rejected.
The Native American Rights Fund continued North Dakota in early 2016, arguing that the law was unconstitutional and a violation of the law on voting rights. A federal district judge agreed and issued a ruling in April blocking the ID requirement, but the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned that decision in a 2-1 decision in September. The denial by the Supreme Court of the appeal of the Native American Rights Fund means that the law will continue to exist, creating a huge amount of confusion for thousands of voters whose IDs were valid for the June primaries, but no longer sufficient to vote on 6 November. .
In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out precisely what is at stake for North Dakota – 70,000 inhabitants of the state lack an ID that qualifies under the new rules. That is almost 20 percent of the typical attendance for an interim election. The verdict, Ginsburg said, "can cause voters at the polling station to find out that they can not vote because their previously valid ID is now insufficient."
In an election that can end with only a few thousand votes, the court's decision can have a big impact on the country, not just those living in North Dakota.
There is no reason to look away from the implications of this law: one of the most important political parties in America is doing everything to limit access to the electoral process. This is an attack that must be faced for what it is – a threat to democratic governance that will have the effect of removing the most fundamental right of a large number of vulnerable colorists.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly shown that it will not protect our voting rights, so now it is up to us to ensure that we choose representatives who will.