North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger was served with a lawsuit Thursday by seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa who claim that recent changes to the state’s voter identification laws infringe on their right to vote. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Bismarck asks the court to find that voter ID requirements passed by state lawmakers in 2013 and 2015 “disproportionately burden and disenfranchise Native Americans,” and to declare them unconstitutional and stop Jaeger from enforcing them. “I think we just want to go back to the way it was before, because I think that was working out well,” said Matthew Campbell, an attorney with the Boulder, Colo.-based nonprofit Native American Rights Fund, which is representing the plaintiffs along with Bismarck attorney Thomas Dickson and attorney Richard de Bodo of Santa Monica, Calif.
Jaeger said he had not reviewed the lawsuit and couldn’t comment on it. He noted the 2003 Legislature made tribal ID an acceptable form of voter ID, “but we’ll have to see what their concern is.”
“The same requirements are for all North Dakota residents,” he said.
The 45-page complaint claims some plaintiffs were refused the right to vote in November 2014 because their tribal ID didn’t list a current residential address. It says some tribal members can’t afford a new tribal ID or the documentation needed to obtain a state driver’s license or non-driver ID card.
North Dakota is the only state in the nation without voter registration, having abolished it in 1951. An interim legislative committee is exploring whether the state should reinstate registration.