BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s top election official and the state’s tribal liaison on Friday downplayed any potential difficulty for Native Americans to vote in the state on Election Day.
Tribes unsuccessfully challenged a voter ID law that requires a street address for an identification to be valid. They argued that many people on reservations don’t know their street address and don’t have IDs that list it.
Meeting with reporters at the state Capitol in Bismarck, Indian Affairs Commission Director Scott Davis and Secretary of State Al Jaeger said the state has been working with leaders of the Standing Rock Sioux, Spirit Lake Sioux, Three Affiliated Tribes and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa to ensure voter ID requirements are met.
Davis, who is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said all tribes in recent weeks have been issuing free IDs with residential street addresses to their members. He said all tribes also will provide free transportation to polling places on Tuesday.
“Sometimes change is tough,” Davis said in an interview. “But I really do believe we’re in a really good place now.”
The election includes a race that could help determine control of the U.S. Senate. Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who narrowly won her seat in 2012 with the help of the American Indian vote.
Jaeger said about 112,000 North Dakota residents had already cast ballots by Friday morning. That’s nearly equal to the turnout in the June primary and about half of the turnout in the state’s 2014 midterm election.
Davis said he expected record turnout on the state’s four largest reservations.
Jaeger said his office and county auditors have been working to inform tribal leaders about how they can vote. If information on an ID isn’t current, the ID can be supplemented with other documentation, such as a recent utility bill. Voters without the right documentation on Election Day also may cast a ballot that’s set aside and the voter is given a week to provide the documentation, he said.
In Rollette County, which includes the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa reservation near the Canadian border, tribal officials will be at polling places to help any member who does not have a valid ID, said Val McCloud, the county auditor. One could be issued almost immediately, she said.
Davis believes the same is happening on other reservations.
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