For Indian people living on reservations in the Dakotas, having a post office box as their only address is the norm. Families must travel, mostly dirt and gravel roads that crisscross rugged terrain, just to check their mail because the U.S. Postal Service does not deliver to these remote areas.
It seems reservation realities are not something United States Supreme Court Justices can fathom, as they just refused to hear a challenge to a North Dakota law that will keep thousands of Native Americans from going to the polls in November. Or is there a bigger issue at stake?
A 2016 North Dakota law that requires voters to present an ID that includes a physical address was challenged by Native American Rights Fund who alleged that the law disproportionately blocked Native Americans from voting.
In April, a federal district court judge blocked large portions of the law as discriminatory against Native voters and found that 1) Native voters live in areas with no physical address 2) Tribal ID’s often do not list residential addresses 3) Natives are disproportionately homeless 4) There are very few drivers license centers on or near reservations.
“The State has acknowledged that Native American communities often lack residential street addresses,” Judge Daniel Hovland wrote. “Nevertheless, under current State law an individual who does not have a ‘current residential street address will never be qualified to vote.”
Last week the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement from Chairman Mike Faith, “Native Americans can live on the reservation without an address. They’re living in accordance with the law and treaties, but now all of a sudden they can’t vote. There is no good reason that a P.O. Box address is not sufficient to vote.”
According to Pema Levy columnist for Mother Jones the new ID law is considered a ploy by the Republican Party to ensure they hold the Senate in the midterms. The Native Vote in North Dakota could give Senator Heidi Heitkamp, considered the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection, the edge she needs to win Levy wrote.
Luke Darby, columnist for GQ states, “By now we know this is the deliberate design of voter I.D. laws. Under the guise of election security and fighting nonexistent voter fraud, Republicans across the country have crafted legislation that prevents people from voting if they aren’t likely to vote Republican. That’s how Republicans can hold broadly unpopular positions or support very generally abhorrent people like Brett Kavanaugh without worrying about being held accountable.”
American Civil Liberties Union responded: “On Oct. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court chose to stand by and allow the war against voting to continue. Just a little less than a month before midterm elections that will determine control of Congress, the court decided not to block North Dakota’s restrictive voter ID law, which will make it harder for people in the state to cast their ballots.”
“There’s no reason to look away from the implications of this law: One of America’s major political parties is doing everything it can to restrict access to the electoral process. This is an attack that must be confronted for what it is — a threat to democratic governance that will have the effect of taking away the most basic right of a large number of vulnerable voters of color.”
The Supreme Court has repeatedly demonstrated that it won’t safeguard our right to vote, so now it’s up to us to make sure we elect representatives who will.”
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is encouraging their members to contact External Affairs Director Danielle Finn at email@example.com to update their tribal ID’s. Members may also call (701) 854-8500
“Why is it getting harder and harder for Native Americans to vote? This law clearly discriminates against Native Americans,” Faith stated.
On Election Day, Standing Rock will be sending out drivers to help people get to the polls.
Call 911 in North Dakota to get address
Mary Lou Bonnifield shared, “If you encounter anyone who says to you that they do not have a residential street address to provide to either the DOT or the tribal government to obtain an ID, please encourage them to reach out to the 911 Coordinator in the county in which their residence exists to start the simple process to have the address assigned. The North Dakota Association of Counties maintains a list of all 53 County 911 Coordinators.”
A simple phone call to this individual can start this no charge process that can usually be completed in an hour or less when the individual can describe the location of the home. After the address is assigned, the office assigning it will provide a letter upon request that confirms this new address. This letter can be used either to obtain an ID or as supplemental documentation for voting purposes for those individuals whose ID includes a mailing address rather than a residential address. It is worth noting that in some counties the responsibility of assigning addresses is completed by an office other than the 911 Coordinator; however, the 911 Coordinator will be able to connect the individual to that other office and the process will still be no charge and quick.
(Contact Ernestine Chasing Hawk at sales3@ nativesunnews.today)