U.S. News

Federal judge blocks North Dakota voter identification law

(Reuters) - North Dakota on Monday became the latest state to have its voter identification law blocked by a federal court, adding to a string of recent rulings across the United States on the grounds that such measures disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

North Dakota joined North Carolina and Wisconsin, where voter-ID restrictions were struck down by federal courts on Friday, victories for advocates who claim the measures are an attempt to suppress voters who tend to cast ballots for Democrats.

Seven Native American voters filed a federal law suit against North Dakota claiming measures passed by the Republican-led legislature in 2013 and 2015 are unconstitutional and violate the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

The laws added restrictions to the types of identification voters can use at polling places and banned “fail-safe” provisions allowing them to vote without the required identification in certain circumstances.

United States District Judge Daniel Hovland issued a preliminary injunction on Monday against North Dakota’s law, writing in his ruling that the law adds “substantial and disproportionate burdens” for Native American voters compared to other voters in the state.

“No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote,” he wrote.

Hovland pointed to several statistics in his ruling that showed Native Americans, especially those who live without a car or far from driver’s license site, would be more effected by the laws than non-Native Americans.

North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger told the New York Times that he would not appeal the decision and that November’s election “would revert to using less restrictive identification rules.”

Critics argue that such provisions are designed to drive down turnout by minorities and poor people who rely more on flexible voting methods and are less likely to possess state-issued photo IDs. Proponents of such laws say they aim to eliminate voter fraud.

“We want everyone to vote,” The plaintiffs’ lawyer Thomas A. Dickson told the New York Times, “and whoever has the most votes, they win. That’s the American way. Somehow, we’ve gotten away from that.”

North Dakota has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1968 and is not considered a big prize with only three electoral college votes to the winner in the upcoming election on Nov. 8, when U.S. voters go to the polls to choose the nation’s next president.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Michael Perry