'Welcome to the Future': SCOTUS Ruling on North Dakota's Voter ID Law Underscores Nationwide GOP Attack on Voting Rights

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court's decision on Tuesday requiring North Dakota voters to have certain types of ID and a street address to vote--likely disenfranchising thousands of voters. (Photo: Penn State/Flickr/cc)

'Welcome to the Future': SCOTUS Ruling on North Dakota's Voter ID Law Underscores Nationwide GOP Attack on Voting Rights

"This is why the Supreme Court matters...It's about the very nature of American democracy. And, oh yeah, about racism too."

As the U.S. Supreme Court this week upheld a North Dakota voter ID requirement, it likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of the state's residents--particularly Democratic-leaning Native American voters--and made clear that the highest court in the land will do little to protect Americans from the Republican Party's rampant attacks on voting rights.

The court ruled in favor of the Eighth Circuit Court's decision that allowed the state to require all voters to have a residential street address and an accepted form of ID which includes that address.

The requirement, introduced in 2017 by GOP Gov. Doug Burgum, blatantly disenfranchises indigenous voters, many of whom live on reservations and use P.O. boxes instead of street addresses.

"Access to voting should not be dependent on whether one lives in a city or on a reservation," Jacqueline De Leon, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), which is representing several plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement. "The District Court in North Dakota has found this voter identification law to be discriminatory; nothing in the law has changed since that finding. North Dakota Native American voters will now have to vote under a system that unfairly burdens them more than other voters. We will continue to fight this discriminatory law."

Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not participate in the ruling, but The Intercept's Mehdi Hasan pointed out that his ability to now rule on issues like voting rights as a judge on the highest court in the country, was part of what Kavanaugh's opponents feared last week as they called for the Senate to reject his nomination.

Voters who didn't meet the stipulation were permitted to vote in the primary elections earlier this year, but last month a federal district court sought to enforce the law for the general election. The Supreme Court ruled against NARF's request to further delay implementation of the law.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg shared grave concerns that the rule could leave tens of thousands of the state's voters unable to vote in November:

The risk of disenfranchisement is large... Seventy thousand North Dakota residents--almost 20 percent of the turnout in a regular quadrennial election--lack a qualifying ID; and approximately 18,000 North Dakota residents also lack supplemental documentation sufficient to permit them to vote without a qualifying ID.

The rule comes amid several other voting rights battles in states including Georgia, where Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, has accused Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp of systematic voter suppression. Kemp--who is Abrams' opponent in the gubernatorial race--oversees the state office where hundreds of thousands of voter registrations have been canceled since 2017.

Ongoing legal battles over who should be afforded the right to vote will likely continue under the new Supreme Court following Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation last weekend, critics said Wednesday. Kavanaugh has ruled several times in favor of strict voter ID laws that have disenfranchised tens of thousands of voters, disproportionately affecting people of color.

On social media, the local group North Dakota Native Vote shared advice for Native American residents who fear the rule may keep them from exercising their right to vote.

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