BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge has denied North Dakota’s request to delay part of a ruling that found problems with how the state’s voter identification laws affect Native Americans.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland in his order Monday chided the state for raising a “litany of embellished concerns” about people taking advantage of his ruling last month that expand the proof of identity Native Americans can use for North Dakota elections.
Hovland last month eliminated a requirement that documents used by Native American include residential street addresses. Those sometimes aren’t assigned on American Indian reservations.
North Dakota officials called that part of the ruling unworkable, and claimed someone with only a post office box could still vote where they don’t live.
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“The reality is (the state) has failed to demonstrate any evidence of voter fraud in the past or present,” Hovland wrote in his order Monday, denying a delay.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger, North Dakota’s top election official, said Tuesday the state is appealing the case. The state also is opposing attorney fees totaling more than $1.1 million filed by the plaintiffs.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum last year signed legislation that reworked the ID laws after tribal members sued the state in 2016. The lawsuit alleged the ID requirements violated the U.S. Voting Rights Act and discriminated against Native Americans.
Several members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota challenged the state’s voter identification laws, saying they were a form of voter suppression.
Tom Dickson, a lawyer for tribal members, said Hovand has “consistently” sided with the tribe.
Dickson claims the law, put in place by North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature, is an effort to hurt voter turnout for American Indians, who tend to vote Democratic.
“They want to limit the right of people to vote,” Dickson said. “This isn’t a law with unintended consequences, it’s a law with intended consequences.”
The Native American vote is seen as critical for Democratic U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who faces a tough re-election fight from GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer in a race for control of the Senate.
Hovland in his order suggested lawyers, the tribes and the state “sit down for one day and create workable and reasonable solutions so that all homeless persons, and all persons who live on Native American reservations in North Dakota, can have a meaningful opportunity to vote?”
He said “the solutions can be achieved with little effort and minimal expense.”
Jaeger, North Dakota’s top elections officer, called the proposed negotiations “an interesting concept” but the state prefers to go through the courts.
“I don’t know what there is to work out,” Jaeger said. The state will “work through legal process and let the filings do the talking.”