North Dakota has been in the spotlight for several years due to what many say is a restrictive voter identification law that unduly affects Native Americans.
The Republican-controlled North Dakota Legislature passed a law in 2012 that prevented Native Americans from voting with an ID that listed a post office box as an address. Many Native Americans live in homes without traditional addresses.
Tribal leaders, voting rights advocates and former North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp long decried the law and have worked toward changing it.
This week, North Dakota agreed to a binding consent decree that allows Native Americans in the state to vote without an ID that shows a residential address. It constitutes a settlement with the Spirit Lake Nation and Standing Rock Sioux tribes.
The decision is being called a major victory. Once it is approved by tribal councils, it will put to rest two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law.
It also means that for the 2020 elections, Native American voters in North Dakota will be allowed to mark their homes on a map, and it will be the state’s responsibility to use the information to verify their addresses and make sure their votes are counted.
OJ Semans, the co-executive director of Four Directions, a Native American voting rights group, told the New York Times that the decision is “a victory for Indian Country.”
“We let the state of North Dakota keep some face. But all in all, what we said from the very beginning was right, and I think in the settlement that has occurred, the state of North Dakota also has agreed that what they did was a little too far and a little too restrictive,” he told the Times.
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