Tribes print their own IDs to fight voter suppression

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30 Oct 2018, 5:45 pm

Tribal vote suppression has become so active that they even tried to trick Native American voters into using blue ink on their ballots when black was required, which ended up forcing the use of both colors to become acceptable.

In North Dakota, Native Americans Try to Turn an ID Law to Their Advantage

Yet under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. Post office boxes, which many Native Americans rely on, aren’t enough anymore.

The Republican-controlled state legislature began debating this requirement just a few months after Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, won a Senate seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Ms. Heitkamp is now seeking re-election in one of the nation’s most aggressively contested elections, and she is trailing her Republican opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, in the polls. And once again, she is looking to Native Americans for a strong vote: there are at least 30,000 of them in North Dakota...

But in these final days before the election, their tribal governments are working feverishly to provide the necessary identification, and some Native Americans believe their anger could actually fuel higher turnout.

“I’m past the point of being upset over it,” said Lonna Jackson-Street, secretary and treasurer of the Spirit Lake Tribe. “I’m more excited about the outcome, because I think we’re going to bring in numbers that we’ve never seen before.” ...

Tribes have extended their office hours and worked around the clock to find efficient ways to assign addresses and issue identification. They are providing hundreds of free IDs when they would normally charge at least $5 to $10 apiece. The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians printed so many IDs that the machine overheated and started melting the cards...

Geographic information experts at Claremont Graduate University in California overlaid voting precinct maps on satellite images of the reservations and assigned each precinct one address. Voters can now point to their house on the map and be assigned the precinct address plus a unique identifier: -001, -002, and so on. Tribal officials will be stationed at every reservation polling site on Election Day with a form letter on tribal letterhead, ready to assign an address and issue identification on the spot...

...when Ms. Young filled out an absentee ballot, Ms. Hettich told her she had to use blue ink or the ballot would not be counted. But literature on the secretary of state’s website says ballots must be filled out in black ink. Mr. Semans ping-ponged back and forth between Standing Rock and Bismarck, trying to get a guarantee that ballots would not be thrown out because of ink color. On Friday, Lee Ann Oliver in the secretary of state’s office told The Times that both blue and black were acceptable.