#NativeVote18: 1000's of ND tribal members getting free ID’s before election day

Vincent Schilling

Organizer: "This is only making us more aware of our rights, more energized, and more likely to vote this November."

After a court ruling that has left Indian Country voters in North Dakota frustrated and yet empowered to take action, American Indian tribes in North Dakota are providing free ID’s to thousands of tribal members before Tuesday’s election.

The court ruling this summer denied tribal ID’s without a street address when attempting to vote. The move created a flurry of action and was largely criticized by democrats, who claim Republican lawmakers are trying to stifle the Native vote, which is largely democratic. Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota called the move “Voter disenfranchisement.”

The Turtle Mountain Chippewa, Standing Rock Sioux, Spirit Lake Sioux and Three Affiliated Tribes all have initiated programs to provide free IDs with a physical street address to tribal members. The effort was also supported by online and direct donations, donations. The Native American Rights Fund gave four tribes a total of $50,000, and a GoFundMe site created by the Standing Rock Sioux had raised more than $200,000 from more than 4,300 donors so far.

In addition to outreach and support from tribal governments, The free ID’s, ID machines and related efforts are also being employed with assistance from such groups as the Lakota People’s Law Project and Four Directions, who have assisted in getting more than 2,000 ID’s made for residents that don’t have formal street addresses on the identification.

Tribes say the move will likely backfire, as they are coming together to fight for a cause.

"We're at our best in crisis," said Phyllis Young to the Associated Press. Young is an organizer on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation for the Lakota People's Law Project. "This is only making us more aware of our rights, more energized, and more likely to vote this November."

The address issue has created a firestorm of sorts in Indian Country. A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday by the Spirit Lake Sioux who allege that the 911 system on the reservation is "characterized by disarray, errors, confusion, and missing or conflicting addresses."

The move would give the tribe the rights to have the residential address requirement ruled unconstitutional. The tribe is also seeking an emergency order which would bar ND from enforcing the voting statute against Native Americans.

The fight to issue ID’s continues.

The demand for ID’s has been so high, some of the machines were reportedly melting ID’s because they had gotten too hot. But these minor road bumps haven’t stopped the desire to keep pushing forward.

As reported by the Associated Press As of Tuesday, the programs had provided 1,050 IDs on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, more than 380 on the Spirit Lake Sioux Reservation and 440 on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The Three Affiliated Tribes had provided 140 in its first day.

The Associated Press also interviewed Alexis Davis, 19, chairwoman of the Turtle Mountain Youth Council, who has an ID with a residential street address. Davis told the AP that many of her friends do not.

The voter ID issue has given her a reason to fight back.

"It's like, oh you want to make this harder for me? Oh, you want to take away my rights?" she said to the AP. "It's like, no, now I'm going to fight that, and I'm going to be more resilient, and I'm going to make sure that I'm going to go vote."

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter -@VinceSchilling

Email -vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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