federal judge has rejected a North Dakota tribe’s emergency motion to stop a voter ID law that it argued disproportionately affects Native Americans in Tuesday’s midterm elections. “The federal courts are unanimous in their judgment that it is highly important to preserve the status quo when elections are fast approaching,” U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland wrote in his order. The judge said the lawsuit by the Spirit Lake Tribe gives “great cause for concern” and will need a “a detailed response from the Secretary of State as this case proceeds,” but decided that “a further injunction on the eve of the election will create as much confusion as it will alleviate, and is foreclosed by precedent which is hesitant to permit ‘eleventh-hour changes to election laws.’” The Spirit Lake Tribe sued to block the state from enforcing a voter ID law that they argued would disenfranchise hundreds if not thousands of Native Americans ahead of next week’s elections. The law requires all voters to present an ID with their street address, but many Native Americans who live on reservations do not have traditional street addresses and rely on post office box addresses.
ABC News reports that 35 percent of Native Americans living on reservations do not have an ID that would allow them to vote. The Spirit Lake Tribe estimated that more than 200 of their members don’t have residential street addresses.
Hovland previously ruled twice that the law disproportionately affected Native Americans, but his ruling was overturned by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court effectively upheld the ruling.
Several tribes are now trying to print new IDs for as many people as possible before the election. According to ABC News, at least 2,000 people have been issued new IDs by the tribes in recent weeks.
If the law disenfranchises as many voters as the tribes claim, it could spell doom for incumbent Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who trails Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer in every poll released within the last two months. Heitkamp won her first race by 3,000 votes – after polls had her trailing significantly leading up to the election – in large part thanks to Native American voters.