North Dakota agreed to hold settlement negotiations with a group of American Indians who sued over expanded voter ID laws after a federal judge admonished the state for exaggerating worries of voter fraud. U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Miller on Monday scheduled the settlement talks proposed by the plaintiffs for May 29 in Bismarck. In a ruling last week, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland criticized the state for raising a “litany of embellished concerns” about people taking advantage of his earlier ruling that expands the proof of identity Native Americans can use for North Dakota elections. Hovland had suggested the parties negotiate a settlement “so that all homeless persons, and all persons who live on Native American reservations in North Dakota, can have a meaningful opportunity to vote.”
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum last year signed GOP-led legislation that reworked the ID laws after tribal members sued the state in 2016. Several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota have continued to challenge the laws, saying are a form of voter suppression.
Hovland previously had eliminated a requirement that documents include residential street addresses, which are sometimes not assigned on American Indian reservations. North Dakota officials called that part of the ruling unworkable, and claimed it could lead to voter fraud.
The state already had appealed Hovland’s ruling and the attorney fees totaling more than $1.1 million filed by the plaintiffs.