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Yet Another Voter ID Controversy

Robert Franklin

Posted on October 11, 2018 15:14

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Justices Ginsberg and Kagan have warned of potential confusion in North Dakota ahead of the mid-terms now that the Supreme Court has decided not to get involved in the debate over the validity of the state's voter ID laws.

"If the Eighth Circuit's stay is not vacated, the risk of disenfranchisement is large. The Eighth Circuit observed that voters have a month to 'adapt' to the new regime. But that observation overlooks specific fact-findings by the District court: (1) 70,000 North Dakota residents--almost 20% of the turnout in a regular quadrennial election--lack a qualifying ID; and (2) approximately 18,000 North Dakota residents also lack supplemental documentation sufficient to permit them to vote without a qualifying ID."

The above excerpt from Justice Ginsberg's dissent in the matter of Brakebill v. Jaeger paints a stunning picture of what to expect from North Dakota during the upcoming midterm elections. The high court refused to intervene in the matter, letting the Republican legislature's new voter ID laws go into effect just weeks before the election.

North Dakota's new voter ID laws, which require a current North Dakota residential address to be present on all approved forms of identification, have the potential to run afoul of the entire democratic process in the state. North Dakota has unique voting blocs that are in danger of being unable to participate, which could upend the state's politics.

The total estimated population of the state is just over 755,000, this means that one out of every ten North Dakotans lacks a qualifying ID under the new law. Those 70,000 North Dakotans who lack a qualifying ID, according to Justice Ginsberg, make up about twenty percent of the quadrennial electorate, which means that the new laws effectively complicate the civics process for one out of every five potential voters.

North Dakota's sparse population is important to keep in mind, as something as trivial as a couple thousand votes can make all of the difference in an election. Case in point, in 2012, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who was expected by nearly everyone following the race to lose handily to her opponent, Republican Rick Berg, pulled off a stunning upset, thanks in large part to an outpouring of votes by Native American North Dakotans.

The margin was less than 3,000 votes.

Heitkamp's win seems to be a factor for the changes made to North Dakota's voter ID laws. As has been observed in other states that have tightened the process, North Dakota's voter ID laws appear to have a disproportionate impact on minorities. In this case, it appears the Native American population bear the brunt of the new legislation.

Most Native Americans who live on reservations don't have North Dakotan street addresses, and instead rely on P.O. Boxes to receive correspondence. Many Native Americans also cannot provide the "supplemental documentation" which the new laws allow, as homelessness and poverty makes it difficult to get something like a utility bill.

This is bad for North Dakota. This is bad for democracy. In an area where a couple thousand votes can make all the difference what better way to tilt the field in your favor than stomp on the voting ability of one-tenth of your population, right?

Robert Franklin

Posted on October 11, 2018 15:14

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FCCNN BISMARCK — An attorney challenging North Dakota's voter ID law welcomed a federal judge's ruling Wednesday, April 4,...

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