Home | News | Lifestyle: Native American groups issue more than 2,000 free IDs to their members to fight North Dakota's voter suppression laws

Lifestyle: Native American groups issue more than 2,000 free IDs to their members to fight North Dakota's voter suppression laws

  • Native American groups in North Dakota have helped provide its members more than 2,000 ID cards in advance of the 2018 midterm elections.
  • North Dakota once had one of the most relaxed voting laws in the country, but Republican lawmakers cracked down on voting after the 2012 election.
  • Some of those laws made it harder for Native Americans to vote by requiring a type of ID many can't easily obtain.

Tribes in North Dakota have helped provide more than 2,000 identification cards to Native Americans in advance of the 2018 midterm elections, defying a state law that would otherwise strip many of them of their ability to vote.

The law requires voters to have an ID card displaying their exact residency. But many Native Americans don't have one, and can't get one because they don't use street addresses on their reservations, they are homeless and stay with friends or relatives, of because a new ID is prohibitively expensive, according to the Associated Press. In many cases, the state's mapping system that assigns people addresses is simply wrong. A US district judge estimated that the law disenfranchised more than 5,000 Native Americans.

Earlier this month, a federal judge rejected a lawsuit brought by Native Americans to challenge the law. Before 2012, North Dakota had among the easiest voting laws in the country. But after Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp won the 2012 election by less than 3,000 votes, Republican state lawmakers began passing laws that made voting harder. Many of Heitkamp's supporters are Native Americans, and now she's among the most imperiled senators up for re-election in the 2018 midterm elections Tuesday.

Read more: 9 Senate races that are shaping up to be nail-biters and will determine which party controls the Senate.

The ID drive was spearheaded by the Lakota People's Law Project and the Four Directions nonprofit organization, with other organizations chipping in as well. The Native American Rights Fund and the Standing Rock Sioux group have collectively offered $250,000 to help fund the effort of getting Native Americans proper IDs to vote.

"We're at our best in crisis," Phyllis Young, an organizer at the Lakota People's Law Project, told the Associated Press. "[It's] only making us more aware of our rights, more energized, and more likely to vote this November."

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