North Dakota’s Republican Secretary of State Al Jaeger has agreed to settle two lawsuits that had argued that the GOP’s strict voter ID law had intentionally discriminated against Native American voters, handing voting rights advocates in North Dakota a major victory.
Jaeger’s move came after a federal court rejected the GOP’s motion to dismiss one of the challenges on Monday. The settlement will require the state to enter into a consent agreement enforced by a federal court order to guarantee that Native voters who don’t have a residential street address can still vote.
At issue was the law’s requirement that voters to have a street address on their ID for it to be valid. But because many Native Americans living on remote rural reservations lack postal service and thus don’t have a traditional address, a large number of IDs issued by the tribes would have been disqualified. Since many reservation residents also don’t drive, they don’t have driver’s licenses, either.
Federal courts let this law go into effect in 2018, but Native activists were able to blunt much of its impact by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to print free tribal IDs that included residential addresses. The backlash may have helped spur turnout on Native reservations, with some setting participation records that exceeded levels seen in even presidential years.
As part of the settlement, Jaeger’s office has agreed to work with the state Department of Transportation to help voters on reservations obtain a free non-driver ID within 30 days of future statewide elections. Native voters will also be able to mark their residence on a map and therefore shift the burden of verifying their address to the state. Officials will also be required to work to educate the public and train poll workers properly.
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