Turtle Mountain chair says legal fight over voter ID laws likely to continue

Published: Aug. 2, 2019 at 3:25 PM CDT
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The fight over North Dakota's voter ID laws isn't likely to end with Wednesday's decision by a federal judge. Turtle Mountain Chairman Jamie Azure says the tribe will examine its options after a federal court reversed the injunction.

Each of the six individuals who sued the state over the laws are members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

Azure says he expected the decision but is still disappointed. The silver lining he said is that the 2-1 opinion was narrowly written, leaving the door open for challenges.

“The 8th Circuit didn’t address the Voting Rights Act claims. Those remain valid, available claims for the voters affected by this decision,” said Azure.

North Dakota's law requires a name, current street address and date of birth on a state or tribal issued ID card. The tribes said before the 2018 election the address requirement created a burden since many either didn't have IDs or acceptable supplemental documents.

“By creating a tribal ID with the necessary elements, the address and all the state requirements, we're trying to stay ahead of the curve but it's tough on tribes,” said Azure.

The chairman says the tribe will incur costs to make sure their members have the proper identification. Azure did say its better this decision came out nearly a year before the next election instead of weeks, but added there’s a feeling of disrespect over how this has been handled and a lack of communication after the election.

“The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa have been trying hard for the last three years to try and mend these fences and partnership with the state and federal government. It seems like we do all these symbolic and really great things, only for something that has true grit being passed aside again and say, ‘Oh this was a court decision’,” said Azure.

Azure said he’d “gladly wipe the slate clean” to meet with anybody to work and fix the issues.

Mark Fox, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes​​, said in a statement:

“We are disappointed that the 8th Circuit Court chose to uphold the controversial 2017 voter ID law. The legislation may disenfranchise Native American voters, placing an unfair burden on individuals without street addresses on their IDs. The law disproportionately impacts reservation residents living in rural areas. We look forward to working with the Governor’s Office and state of North Dakota in seeking solutions for this problem.”