An attorney for Native Americans fighting recent changes to North Dakota’s voter identification laws said Thursday a federal appeals court ruling this week declaring a similar Texas law to be discriminatory “certainly enhances our case.” Seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa filed a federal lawsuit in January against North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, arguing that voter ID requirements passed by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature in 2013 and 2015 are unconstitutional and “disproportionately burden and disenfranchise” tribal members. One of their attorneys, Tom Dickson of Bismarck, was encouraged by Wednesday’s 9-6 ruling by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which found a Texas law requiring voters to show a government-issued ID is discriminatory and violates the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
The appeals court sent the case back to a district court to examine whether the law had a discriminatory purpose and asked the district court to come up with a short-term fix for the November election, Reuters reported — something the North Dakota plaintiffs also are seeking before November.
“It certainly enhances our case. This is a very conservative appellate court, and they could even see through the subterfuge of these voter suppression laws. We think it’s a strong opinion for us,” Dickson said.
The North Dakota laws being challenged require that voters bring an acceptable form of ID showing their current address and birth date to the polls. The only valid forms of ID for in-person voting are a current driver’s license or state ID card, an ID issued by a tribal government and a long-term care certificate.