Native American voting addressed by state officials, tribes

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STANDING ROCK, N.D. - The state of North Dakota and tribal governments say they are working to make sure all eligible citizens can vote.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger and Indian Affairs Commission Executive Director Scott Davis say all the tribal governments are issuing free IDs to anyone who needs one. Those IDs will include a physical address, which is necessary to be able to cast a ballot. Davis says he is confident everyone will have the opportunity to vote.

“Sometimes these changes, you kind of come out of the gate a little confused but I really believe that we're in a really good place here,” Davis said.

Jaeger says if necessary, they'll use set aside ballots. That means they can mark the ballot, and they have seven days to go back to county officials to present the correct identification.

More than 2,000 people have already gotten new IDs ahead of the election. Nearly 500 of those are in Standing Rock. Many people we spoke to in Fort Yates say they feel the voter suppression is building a lot of momentum to get out and vote and have their voices heard. Native American voter activists say they have a map of the area and are having people point to where their homes are and are finding the closest legal address and using it.

Nearly five-dozen boots are on the ground to help Native Americans get their ID's in time to vote.

"I was upset really,” said Darlene ChasingHawk, Standing Rock member. “It's just like they just took our rights away from what we were going to do. So we have to stand up, the way I believe is that we have to stand up and fight back."

And they're doing just that. A yellow house on the outskirts of Fort Yates is headquarters for this all-hands-on-deck operation to get Native American voters to the polls.

"The notion of having to get new ID's within a month of the elections, it's a total scramble,” said Dan Nelson, Project Lead At Lakota People's Law Project. “And it's a difficult challenge that every tribe in the state of North Dakota is facing right now, including Standing Rock. But they are meeting that challenge.”

The Lakota People's Law Project, along with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Four Directions, are going door to door.

"I think we're doing a positive thing,” said Renne HighElk, Standing Rock member. “We're trying to make changes for the better for our people."

They say this weekend is pivotal to getting the last round of voters.

The state is expecting a bigger turnout of Native American voters than ever before. In Standing Rock alone, the number of return ballots as of Friday is more than triple the amount of the largest submitted absentee ballot numbers in years prior, which was less than 80.