State DOT begins tribal voter ID campaign in Belcourt

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BELCOURT, N.D. - We're in the early stages of the 2020 election season, and state leaders are doing their part to make sure residents of our Native American reservations have the proper ID for when they cast their ballot.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation is working with North Dakota's Native American tribes to ensure everyone has a proper ID heading into this year's election cycle.

The DOT set up shop at the first of the state's five reservations to issue free non-driver photo ID's for voting.

"This day is the first day of Tribal ID day or state ID for each of our tribes here in North Dakota," said Scott Davis, executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission.

It's the byproduct of an agreement between the tribes and the North Dakota Secretary of State after two federal cases arose over voter ID laws.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Spirit Lake Sioux filed suit in 2019 challenging the state requirement of a provable street address on a voter ID.

The two sides reached an agreement in April, that was approved by a federal judge this month.

The DOT is visiting the five reservations over the next two weeks to begin collecting photos and documents at tribal locations to get the ID's into the right hands.

Davis said there were plans in place with the DOT before the lawsuit.

"I know when Director Panos first came on board, I had a long discussion about his outreach to the tribes. More than just roads and infrastructure but, you know, ID's. How could we bring ID machines to each reservation," said Davis.

Native American voters feared that the law disenfranchised members who live where street addresses are uncommon or unknown.

Now, those voters will have a guaranteed proof of ID for the 2020 Election.

"It's just important to allow that opportunity for everybody to have all the basics, the ID's and have somebody to answer the questions," said Tribal Chairman Jamie Azure.

The DOT will now visit the Spirit Lake Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux, the MHA nation, and the Sisseton, Wahpeton Oyate Nation.

The new ID cards are expected to be mailed to residents within five days of finishing the required paperwork.

Here's a look at their schedule over the next week:

Tuesday they're in Belcourt for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Wednesday they will travel to Fort Totten for the Spirit Lake Nation.

Thursday the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will have their turn.

And Friday they will set up in New Town for the MHA nation.

Next week, Tuesday the 26th, the DOT will head to Hankinson for the Sisseton / Wahpeton Oyate nation.