WASHINGTON — A former North Dakota senator and chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee called the state’s voter identification law “shameful” and “a slap in the face” to the last peoples to receive the right to vote in U.S. elections.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court declined to overturn North Dakota’s voter ID law, which requires a person to present an identification that includes a residential address. Native Americans living on reservations, however, often pick up their mail at a post office and have ID cards that reflect a P.O. box number, rather than a street address.
A Republican majority in the legislature passed the bill, which was signed into law last year by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum.
Because Native Americans are typically Democratic voters, it’s clear what the Republican-led legislature intended to do, said Byron Dorgan, a former North Dakota Democrat who served in Congress for 30 years, most recently as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.
“It’s pretty obvious to me what the state legislature aimed to do,” said Dorgan, referring to its attempt to stifle potential Democratic votes from Native Americans in the midterms. “This isn’t even cleverly disguised.”
There’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud that would necessitate such a state law, Dorgan said, which is unique in requiring a mailing address to appear on a voter’s state-issued ID.
“It seems like when (Republicans) have the power to pass voter ID laws, they seem to target minority voters,” he said. “This is not new … but it’s new in the sense that it targets Native Americans.”
Dorgan said he was surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn the ID law but not surprised by the bill’s passage in a state with a GOP majority and a close race for a U.S. Senate seat in November.