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Voter Suppression: It's Now Harder for Thousands of Native Americans to Vote in North Dakota

In her race for re-election, North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is trailing her Republican opponent, Rep. Kevin Cramer. Native Americans are a key demographic in the state and tend to vote for Democrats.

But the Supreme Court decided last week not to block the state’s restrictive voter ID law, which will make it almost impossible for most Native Americans to vote.

The law mandates that IDs must display a “current residential street address.”

“It’s likely to disenfranchise thousands of Native Americans, many of whom live on reservations in rural areas and don’t have street addresses,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stated.

“Since the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t provide residential mail delivery in remote areas, many members of North Dakota’s Native American tribes list their mailing addresses, like P.O. boxes, on their IDs.”

The voter ID law was introduced just months after Heitkamp achieved a narrow upset victory in 2012, winning by less than 3,000 votes, with the support of Native Americans, according to the ACLU. Republicans claimed the law prevents voter fraud.

The law was enacted in 2017, but a U.S. District Court initially blocked it as it was found to be discriminatory against Native Americans in the state. However, the Eighth Circuit overturned that ruling, and, on Tuesday, the Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s decision. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan dissented.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe denounced the Court’s decision.

“Come November, this will cause irreparable harm to the People of Standing Rock,” Standing Rock Chairman Mike Faith said, in a press release posted on Twitter.

“Why is it getting harder and harder for Native Americans to vote This law clearly discriminates against Native Americans in North Dakota. Our voices should be heard and they should be heard fairly at the polls just like all other Americans.”

Faith said that on Election Day, Standing Rock would be sending out drivers to help bring people to the polls, and that the tribe’s external affairs director would help in obtaining a physical addresses on Standing Rock, and updating Tribal IDs.

The midterm elections will decide control of Congress. If the Native American vote is suppressed, and Heitkamp loses, Republicans will most likely rule over the chamber for two more years.

“Democrats need to net two seats to win majority, even as a half-dozen of their incumbents are in tough races,” according to Politico. “The party has four opportunities to flip Republican-held seats. But if Heitkamp loses they’d need to win three of those four, plus hold nine seats in states carried by Trump in 2016.”

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