Nobody in the squat yellow house serving as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s get-out-the-vote headquarters knew its address. It was on Red Tail Hawk Avenue; they knew that much. But the number was anyone’s guess. Phyllis Young, a longtime tribal activist leading the voter-outreach effort, said it had fallen off the side of the house at some point. Her own home has a number only because she added one with permanent marker. This is normal on Native American reservations. Buildings lack numbers; streets lack signs. Even when a house has an address in official records, residents don’t necessarily know what it is. “We know our communities based off our communities,” said Danielle Ta’Sheena Finn, a Standing Rock spokeswoman and tribal judge. “We know, ‘Hey, that’s so-and-so’s house; you go two houses down and that’s the correct place you need to be.’”
Yet under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. Post office boxes, which many Native Americans rely on, aren’t enough anymore.
The Republican-controlled state legislature began debating this requirement just a few months after Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, won a Senate seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Ms. Heitkamp is now seeking re-election in one of the nation’s most aggressively contested elections, and she is trailing her Republican opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, in the polls. And once again, she is looking to Native Americans for a strong vote: there are at least 30,000 of them in North Dakota.