BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota must allow voters who don’t have a state-required ID to cast a ballot by signing an affidavit swearing they are a qualified voter, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland’s order, which came Tuesday, weeks before November’s general election, essentially reinstates a provision that had been allowed in North Dakota until 2013 when the state’s Republican-led Legislature killed it. The state has required voters to provide ID since 2004.
Hovland blocked the state’s voter identification law in August after it was challenged by seven members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who argued the requirements “disproportionately burden and disenfranchise Native Americans.”
Tribal members had argued that the change amounted to having people pay to vote because some tribal members couldn’t afford the required ID and others had to pay to get their tribal IDs updated with a valid address. Hovland agreed, saying the state’s “ill-advised” repeal of “fail-safe” provisions in 2013 resulted in an undue burden on Native Americans.
In response to Hovland’s August decision, Secretary of State Al Jaeger, North Dakota’s top election official, submitted a plan last month to the judge to reinstate the option of an affidavit, which Jaeger says “covers all situations.”
“He ordered us to do what we submitted to him,” Jaeger said.
Federal courts have required changes to voter ID laws in several states this year.
North Dakota accepts a driver’s license as identification or identity cards issued by the state, long-term care facilities or tribes. All must have a valid address.
Before 2013, if a voter lacked an ID card but a poll worker had firsthand knowledge of the person’s identity and residence, the voter also was allowed to cast a ballot. That option, which Jaeger said “really put poll workers in a very difficult situation,” is no longer in place.
Jaeger said North Dakota remains least difficult state in the nation to cast a ballot.
“It’s the easiest and I don’t know how much easier we can make it,” he said.