In early October, the North Dakota legislature passed a law, supported by the Supreme Court of the United States, that requires voters to provide identification that includes their legal name, date of birth and residential address.
The law was first brought up after the 2012 election, when Senator Heidi Heitkamp won the Senate seat. However, it was challenged in court and delayed until the passing of it in October.
According to Secretary of State North Dakota’s website (sos.nd.gov), acceptable forms of identification are a driver’s license, non-driver’s identification card, tribal government-issued identification or a long term care identification certificate.
The law states that qualifying identification must have a residential street address. In a CNN report, North Dakota’s Secretary of State Al Jaeger stated the law was designed to protect the integrity of the vote, and stop voter fraud.
Despite the justifications, many believe that the law will have real consequences for the public, particularly affecting college students and indigenous people living on reservations.
Many college students have identification that doesn’t include their current addresses. And many homes on reservations don’t have street addresses or even house numbers, as residents utilize P.O. boxes to receive their mail. Post Office boxes are not accepted under the new law.
Aurelia Shippentower, a former MSUM student who studied music education, lives in Little Eagle, South Dakota, a town on the Standing Rock Reservation which is 20 miles away from the North Dakota border.
Shippentower says she was shocked and expected the Supreme Court would rule in Standing Rock’s favor, because of the known situation of people not having physical addresses on reservations.
She went on to say that this law could set a precedent for other “red” states to follow North Dakota’s lead to limit voting.
“I know Heidi Heitkamp was kind of a shock that she won, but it was because of Native Americans,” she said. “And it fees like if we ever did get a Democrat on the Senate in those other red states, than they might feel like they can do the same because they’d be able to point to North Dakota and the Supreme Court’s ruling.”
Jason Peterson, a senior majoring in political science and the president of the College Republicans at MSUM, believes that voter fraud is an issue that should be taken seriously and that voter IDs provide more safeguards for voting.
“We need IDs for so many things, you know, to get on planes, to drive,” he said. “The biggest thing that we can do [as citizens] is vote and yet we have no safeguards on voting.”
Peterson thinks that had the law passed when it was originally supposed to, the implementation of the law would have been easier for people to adjust to.
“When it comes to requiring a residential address, I’m on the side that I think a P.O. box should work,” he said. “But I do see both sides of the argument.”
Barbara Headrick, professor of political science at MSUM, said the North Dakota legislature passed a law to solve a problem that didn’t exist.
“Mistakes in voting usually happen because people assume they have everything they need, but make a mistake,” she said.
Despite their different stances, Peterson, Shippentower and Headrick all stress the importance of civic engagement and voting.
When presented with the fear that activists hold that the law could discourage voting, Peterson encouraged anyone with questions to reach out to local offices.
“I would encourage voters to reach out to their local county, really reach out to your local departments,” he said. “Even reach out to your local city council members, representatives, because there’s not one person anywhere that doesn’t want people to vote.”
“If we don’t vote, then this law isn’t going to change,” Shippentower said. “We have to get the people that did this out.”
Standing Rock and other reservations in North Dakota are issuing new IDs that include assigned residential addresses that will allow tribal members to vote on Nov. 6.