North Dakota Voter ID Law Suppresses Native American Vote

First Nations people have been discriminated against since the formation of the United States itself. Native Americans were the last minority group to gain suffrage in America when they were given full citizenship in 1924, and even then certain states denied their rights until 1948. There have been many ways since then in which local and federal governments have attempted to suppress and dehumanize native populations, most recently in North Dakota.

On the eve of the election, just after early voting begun, the state of North Dakota passed a new law that requires all voters to present a “valid” I.D. at the polls, aka one with a current address. This isn’t much of a problem for most, but for rural Native Americans on reservations, who mainly just use a P.O. box as their defining address, this presents an obstacle and prevents them from participating in state elections. The Native American Rights Group attempted to make an appeal to the Supreme Court asking for their intervention, but the appeal was denied.

This creation and acceptance of this law is a prime example of active erasure of the Native American voice and identity, a practice which has been institutionally in place for years. Instances of Native erasure have occurred thousands of times throughout American history, from whitewashing and re-education to internment camps and massacre. Through their actions, the state of North Dakota is basically telling tribes that their voice doesn’t matter to them, and if they do not conform to white societal norms, they will be punished.

Currently, many tribes are scrambling to meet voter ID requirements before election day so that all reservation members over the age of eighteen are eligible to participate, especially since this year’s ticket includes a race which could help determine control of the U.S. Senate. Systematic voter suppression isn’t unique to the state of North Dakota, as the state of Georgia is currently under fire for alleged voter suppression of minority and female voices.

Several rights groups are currently actively working to find ways around this discriminatory law, however, time is running short. These groups have stressed, however, that they will keep fighting to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear.