A federal appeals court halted part of a lower court’s ruling in the long-running battle over North Dakota’s voter identification laws Monday, Sept. 24, citing the potential for fraud in the state’s elections. In a split decision representing a setback for Native Americans challenging the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit suspended a federal judge’s April ruling mandating that the state accept IDs and supplemental documentation with a current mailing address. The suspension, known as a stay, will be in effect while the court case moves forward. The appeals court noted North Dakota is the only state without voter registration and has a “legitimate interest in requiring identification and a showing of current residence to prevent voter fraud and to safeguard voter confidence.” It said the state would be “irreparably harmed” without a stay as requested by Secretary of State Al Jaeger, a Republican.
“If the secretary must accept forms of identification that list only a mailing address, such as a post office box, then voters could cast a ballot in the wrong precinct and dilute the votes of those who reside in the precinct,” the appellate court said.
Dissenting Circuit Judge Jane Kelly said eligible voters may be required to provide a property tax form, mortgage document or utility bill in order to obtain an ID card from the state.
“Unless the individual is a minor (in which case voting is not an issue), each of these documents requires the individual to maintain some type of an interest in physical, residential property,” Kelly wrote. “These facts, standing alone, would demonstrate that North Dakota has erected unconstitutional barriers for prospective voters.”