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ND fights part of voter ID ruling amid appeal

Voters at Holy Family Catholic Church in Grand Forks fill out their ballots for a North Dakota primary election. File photo Eric Hylden / Forum News Service

BISMARCK—North Dakota is fighting part of a federal judge's ruling that loosened the state's voter identification law.

Early this month, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland issued an order preventing the state from requiring that IDs include a "current residential street address, which Native American communities often lack. The state asked Tuesday, April 10, to delay that order while an appeal is pending.

The state also asked for a stay on Hovland's order requiring a voter education campaign, arguing that "informing the public now about information that may later change may cause more confusion."

Attorneys representing members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, who sued Secretary of State Al Jaeger more than two years ago over previous voter ID changes, had not filed a response by mid-afternoon Thursday, April 19. But attorney Tom Dickson said they would fight the state's request.

"That's what we litigated over," he said. "We're not going to just quit now."

The state's brief supporting its request, which was signed by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Deputy Solicitor General James Nicolai, argued Hovland's April 3 order could allow residents of other states to vote here.

"Nothing prevents a nonresident of North Dakota from maintaining a P.O. Box mailing address in North Dakota," the state's memo says.

North Dakota is the only state without voter registration.

Jaeger is hoping for some clarity soon, given the rapidly approaching June primary election.

"We're right up against it, in terms of instructing poll workers (about) what they can accept and can't accept," he said.

Republican legislators have promoted the voter ID law as an effort to prevent fraud, but Dickson has said it reflects broader efforts to suppress Democratic votes. He previously called Hovland's order a "common-sense decision."

But the order also eliminated affidavits that voters could use to swear to their eligibility at the polls. The Legislature removed that option in 2013, a move that helped prompt the lawsuit in the first place, but Hovland reinstated it just before the 2016 election.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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