How far can Trump go? Or, republicans for that matter. First immigrants, then to challenge birthright citizenship…now…Native Americans! WTF? There are natural American Citizens and they belong to the land. Native Americans meaning…natal, original, born unto American heritage!
FORT BERTHOLD INDIAN RESERVATION, N.D. — For more than a year, Tiffany Hunts Along has lived in a cherrywood mobile home high on a ridge in western North Dakota, where she knows every jagged hilltop and every flat field. But when asked last week about her street address, she was stumped.
“Hold on,” said Hunts Along, 40, after reaching for her newly issued tribal identification card. “That’s right — I live on Medicine Otter Loop.”
When she, her husband and their young children — Native Americans belonging to the Three Affiliated Tribes, also known as the M.H.A. Nation — moved into the White Oak Park community, there was no street signage and no direct postal service to the home. She fetches the family’s mail from the nearest post office on the other side of town; her old tribal ID had listed her address as a post office box.
She never bothered to learn her street’s name — until now.
Hunts Along plans to cast a ballot in Tuesday’s midterm election, but a change made by North Dakota lawmakers has forced her and an estimated 5,000 tribal citizens who may have IDs with a post office box address to obtain either a new state-issued or tribal identification showing their street address in order to vote. The requirement — meant to prevent voter fraud, state officials say — went into effect in early October.
Nowhere in North Dakota is the registration process more complex — and urgent — than on reservations. Voter rights groups are scrambling to ensure residents understand why they might be turned away at the polls when they present an ID. Absentee ballots must list a home address as well, not a post office box.
The 11th-hour push comes amid a competitive U.S. Senate race in solidly red North Dakota, where the stakes are high: Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, won by fewer than 3,000 votes in 2012. Native Americans, who largely vote Democratic, helped to tip that race in her favor, and she earned more than 80 percent of the vote in the state’s majority-Native counties. Recent polls, however, have given her GOP challenger, Rep. Kevin Cramer, a double-digit lead. His victory would boost the Republican Party’s chances of holding on to their slim majority in the Senate.
At least 1,360 people have gotten new IDs since the law was changed, according to tribal officials across the state, amid a major get-out-the-vote effort across North Dakota’s five reservations ahead of Election Day. To apply for new IDs, tribal citizens are digging through housing documents or calling their county or 911 services to nail down their address. When actual ones can’t be determined through the local government, tribes have been creating their own as a workaround.
Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director of Arizona State University’s Indian Legal Clinic, said post offices are an integral part of Native Americans’ lives, and that she had never heard of a state reworking voting laws to target people who rely on P.O. boxes.
“This alleged voter fraud shouldn’t trump Native Americans’ fundamental rights,” Ferguson-Bohnee said. “This is a practice, a targeted practice to try and suppress the vote.”
‘ALL WE WANT IS OUR VOTE’
North Dakota is the only state in the nation that doesn’t require residents to register before voting — long held as a point of pride in this sparsely populated prairieland.
In previous elections, voters could use a variety of documents to prove they are state residents and have a current address.
For those lacking the appropriate ID, state law even allowed poll workers to vouch for a voter’s identity — which was helpful in rural communities, including on reservations, where people are more likely to know one another. Voters could also self-certify their ballot by signing an affidavit at the polling station.
But after Heitkamp won in 2012, the state’s Republican-led Legislature decided stricter rules were necessary in the event of voter fraud. Republican state Rep. Dan Ruby told The Nation that his party’s loss “shined a light” on the issue of strengthening voter ID registration and made it a priority, but denied any bill was introduced in order to suppress the Native vote.
As lawmakers rewrote the voter ID registration laws, several Native American voters who say they were disenfranchised in 2014 filed a lawsuit in 2016 claiming the changes were unconstitutional.