In a news conference on Thursday, July 10, North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger defended his strict reading of North Dakota voting law. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom Resource Center, representing those with disabilities, had called on Jaeger to rethink his interpretation, which allows voters to use a small number of forms of identification. The rights groups say this has unfairly burdened tribal and disabled voters. Heather Smith, the ACLU’s North and South Dakota director, said Jaeger’s interpretation had created the “strictest voter ID law in the nation.” She claimed it violates the Voting Rights Act and flies in the face of federal-court decisions striking down such laws.
Tribal ID is on the list of acceptable credentials. But there’s a catch: It must display the voter’s home address. The Spirit Lake Tribe, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa—making up nearly one-third of North Dakota’s Native population of about 36,500—do not include this information on their IDs.
Said Smith, “there is ample concern that members of these communities may also lack other permissible forms of ID,” including driver’s licenses. Nor do they have ready access to the vehicles and gas money necessary to get to the distant offices where they can obtain alternative ID, said South Dakota ACLU’s policy director, Libby Skarin.