Elvis Norquay, a member of the Chippewa Indian tribe, has lived most of his 58 years on North Dakota’s remote Turtle Mountain reservation and says he’s never had a problem voting. That was before 2014, when he hitched a ride with a friend to cast a ballot in local and congressional elections and was turned away. Embarrassed, he asked why he couldn’t vote. He was told he lacked proper ID under new state requirements. He has no phone, no current driver’s license and his tribal ID lacks a street address. “When we left, my friend said, ‘that’s not right’,” said Norquay, who has lived on disability since 2002 in a rural county near the Canadian border.
Norquay is among a growing number of Native Americans embroiled in court battles over changes to voting laws that could influence the outcome of some tight races in the November 2016 presidential and congressional elections.
While the Native American population is small nationally, lawsuits involving tribes over voting problems have proliferated since the Supreme Court struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, a signature legislative achievement of the 1960s civil rights movement.
North Dakota is one of 17 states that have new voting restrictions in place since the last presidential contest, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.