How Supreme Court Decision is Affecting Voter Rights for Native Americans Living on Reservations
After moving through the Supreme Court, all people living in the state must have a street address on their ID, but many living on Native American reservations have a P.O. box
FARGO, N.D. — The Supreme Court decides not to overturn a law in North Dakota requiring people to show a current street address on their ID in order to vote.
KVRR’s Jessie Cohen tells us how many Native Americans feel their rights as citizens have been violated because of this decision.
“When you talk about the freedoms of everybody, I have a sign up here. I want you to look at that what does it say? Freedom is never free. No it isn’t free we’ve been paying all our lives for that,” said Sharon Whitebear, with the Native American Commission.
That fight is continuing as many Native Americans living on North Dakota reservations may not be able to vote in the midterm elections.
“Going from being able to go and cast your ballot and without any barriers whatsoever to now requiring you to find a physical address in a place where they don’t exist is devastating,” said OJ Semans, with Four Directions.
“To deny anybody the right to have a voice in this country is absolutely incomprehensible to me,” said Chalsey Snyder, a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes, out of Fort Bethold.
After moving through the Supreme Court, all people living in the state must have a street address on their ID, but many living on Native American reservations have a P.O. box.
“Our voice is trying to be pushed down when it comes to the United States Government. They don’t want us to have a voice,” Sharon said.
One group is making sure every vote counts.
After researching requirements, Four Directions is teaching tribes how to issue addresses.
“We want to have tribal officials in every polling place issuing a physical address for tribal members to ensure they can vote,” OJ said.
Many Native American community leaders say it just doesn’t make sense to them why people living in neighborhoods like this in West Fargo would have different rights and freedoms than those living on the reservations.
“That’s thousands and thousands of tribal members that are intentionally taken out of the democratic process,” OJ said.
But they aren’t letting this stop them from making change.
“That’s our resiliency. We are going to find a way. You put this in our way, we’re going to find a way because we came from strong people and that’s what they had to face,” Sharon said.
This decision is not just affecting the indigenous people but rural communities as well.
“If you look at the situation in 2012 where Heitkamp was running against Berg. Heidi Heitkamp won by 3,000 votes. Those 3,000 votes can be attributed to her dedication to native country. TO her dedication to our reservations and our people here in North Dakota,” Chalsey said.
They feel their voices have been supressed, but say they will come back louder than ever.
Those affected by the decision are encouraged to reach out to their county’s 911 coordinator start the process of getting assigned an address.