North Dakota Court Recognizes Discrimination in Voter Law

Written by Allie Gordon and Kate Risi, Common Cause Interns on August 2, 2016

Federal Judge Daniel L. Hovland this week blocked enforcement of North Dakota’s voter ID requirement, ruling that the law violates the voting rights of thousands of Dakotans who cannot easily obtain the required identification. The lawsuit was filed by members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who argued that many Native Americans could not afford the necessary ID.

Hovland did not permanently strike down the law, but issued a preliminary injunction against it. North Dakota’s Secretary of State has indicated that the state won’t appeal and in the November election will accept a wide range of identifications and allow citizens who lack any ID to vote by swearing to their identity or having another voter vouch for them.

In  Shelby County v. Holder,  the Supreme Court in 2013 dismantled key aspects of the Voting Rights Act, prompting more than a dozen states to pass new laws restricting voting. Proponents say the laws are aimed at voter fraud, a “problem” that already is essentially non-existent. As Judge Hovland commented, “the record before the court reveals that the secretary of state acknowledged in 2006 that he was unaware of any voter fraud in North Dakota.”

The ruling is the latest win for voting rights advocates in a series of cases challenging voting obstructions across the nation. However, there are still six states with restrictive photo ID laws, so it is critical that courts continue to hear cases like the one in North Dakota, and restore the protections of the Voting Rights Act.

Office: Common Cause Kansas, Common Cause National

Issues: Voting and Elections

Tags: Voting Rights

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