BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – After altering voter identification laws in previous legislative sessions, North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature now is attempting to fix them after a group of American Indians sued in federal court, alleging the state requirements are unconstitutional and disenfranchised tribal members.
The House passed a bill Monday that allows those who don’t have proper ID to cast a ballot that’s set aside until the voter’s eligibility is confirmed. The Senate still must agree to the measure before it goes to GOP Gov. Doug Burgum for his signature.
Before 2013, a voter could sign an affidavit attesting to his or her eligibility to vote in the precinct but the Legislature removed that provision. Some members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa sued last year, alleging the reworked state requirements are unconstitutional and robbed tribal members of their right to vote.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland last year blocked the new law from taking effect, and just weeks before last November’s general election, essentially reinstated the affidavit provision to allow voters who don’t have a state-required ID to cast a ballot by signing an affidavit swearing they are a qualified voter.
The case is still pending in federal court. Attorneys for the tribal members did not return repeated telephone calls on Monday seeking comment.
The measure proposed now does not allow for an affidavit for voters without a proper ID. Instead, it allows ballots to be cast but they will be held until the voters’ eligibility is confirmed. The voter has up to six days to do so, when a state canvassing board certifies the election result.
North Dakota doesn’t have voter registration, but the state has required voters to provide ID since 2004. Before that, casting a ballot was an informal process in most precincts, and identification cards were seldom requested.
North Dakota accepts a driver’s license as identification or ID cards issued by the state, long-term care facilities or North Dakota’s American Indian tribes. All must have a valid address.
If the information on the ID is outdated, it could be supplemented with a current utility bill, bank statement or paycheck, the new measure says.
Fargo GOP Rep. Jim Kasper, a co-sponsor of the bill, said lawmakers worked closely with state election officials in drafting the legislation.
Lawmakers are “quite confident it will be in good standing with the judge,” he said.
Deputy Secretary of State Jim Silrum said similar provisions “have been completely viable in other states – I don’t know why it wouldn’t be viable in North Dakota.”
Republican Rep. Mary Johnson of Fargo said she wasn’t convinced the new legislation would “pass constitutional muster” since it still does not allow for an affidavit for voters without a proper ID.