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North Dakota tribes register a major victory for voting rights

North Dakota officials reached a settlement with two Native American tribes over the restricted voter identification law.

Settlement, Announced on Thursday, Includes a legally binding decree to ensure that Native American voters are not deprived of their rights. It is a major victory for the tribes and – pending formal approval by tribal councils – will solve two issues that challenge the constitutionality of the law, which requires voters to show an identity card with a residential address.

Many Native Americans’ reservations do not use traditional headlines, and the law – passed by the Republican-controlled North Dakota Legislature shortly after Democrat, Heidi Whiteham, won a nearby race in the Senate in 2012 with strong Native American support – means they Cannot vote with post office box listing ID as address. Mrs. Heitkamp was defeated by Kevin Kramer, a Republican, in 2018.

Under the new approval decree, North Dakota Secretary of State will be required to ensure that Native Americans can vote even if they do not have a residential address, or if they have an address, but they do not know what it is. (In many cases, buildings have an official address in county records but there are no signs, and clan members have never used the address).

The decree will be implemented by order of the Federal Court and will ask the state to take specific steps to inform voters of the changes and to train poll workers.

In this year’s elections, Native American voters will be allowed to mark their homes on the map, and it will be the responsibility of the state to use this information to verify their official addresses and ensure that votes are counted. The state will also be required to provide the official addresses of the voters and their tribes, which can then issue the tribal identity for use in the upcoming elections.

This formalizes this arrangement Some tribes used in mid-2018, when a federal court allowed the Voter Identity Act to take effect less than two months before Election Day. Tribal officials stationed polling places on reservations to immediately issue a handwritten identity, using custom addresses, for voters who indicated their homes on the map.

The Secretary of State, Al Geiger, will also work with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to issue free identity cards to each reservation before every state-level election. He agreed to “work in good faith” to secure financing to pay tribal governments’ costs of up to $ 5,000 per election, against administrative costs for issuing addresses and identities.

Mr. Jaeger’s office Public hearing announced On emergency administrative rules to implement the new obligations of the state.

“It has always been our goal to ensure that every citizen of North Dakota has an equal opportunity to vote, and we have accomplished that today,” said Matthew Campbell, Native American Rights Fund attorney who represented the plaintiffs. Declaration.

Lake Spirit leaders and the Standing Rock Sioux tribes, who participated in the other suit, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. But OJ Simans, co-CEO of Four Directions, a group of Native American voters for voting rights that worked with tribal leaders to respond to the voter identity law, looked prosperous in an interview on Thursday.

“It is a victory for the Indian country,” said Mr. Simans. “We left North Dakota with some faces. But overall, what we said from the start was correct, and I think in the settlement that took place, North Dakota also agreed that what they did was very far and very little.”

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