The MHA Nation is working to ensure every tribal member has the ability to vote come November.
In 2018, the federal courts ruled that all voters must show an ID with a current address at the polls. Ever since then, several North Dakota tribes have been working on a fix for tribal members who do not have a permanent address.
For the Three Affiliated Tribes, the solution comes in the form of a map.
An interactive online mapping system was recently created by MHA Nation staff.
As MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox explained, “The map would have all of Fort Berthold, and you would basically be able to (in the grid system) point and say, ‘Well right here is where I live’. And that grid system would give you coordinates.”
So even if you don’t have a permanent address, it provides a 911 address for anyone that can then be printed on a new tribal or state ID, and that can legally be used at the polls.
Chairman Fox says tribal members can come by the administration building anytime during office hours and get their IDs updated.
“A lot of our people do live out on their lands, which are not really, under the state system, acknowledged… you know: private roads, rural areas,” Chairman Fox added.
And, the coordinates are important for more than placing your vote. They become your 911 address used by dispatchers to locate you easily in an emergency.
Take it from State Radio dispatchers who take calls from 25 of 53 North Dakota counties.
“I don’t know where every windmill is in every town. I don’t know every nickname to every county road, and some of that doesn’t really help us or our dispatchers because we don’t know every road in every county that we dispatch for. I mean, if we can find it on a map, we can put it in our system and get the responders going,” shared Brandy Dahlin, a Communications Supervisor for the North Dakota State Radio.
911 addresses are set by assigning 1000 addresses per mile: even numbers are on the right and odd numbers on the left.
For many, it’s simply your street address, but as Chairman Fox explains– addresses don’t always follow this system, making it tougher for emergency services to find you.
“Sometimes even seconds matter, so the quicker we know where you are, the quicker we can send somebody,” Dahlin emphasized.
Phillip Peterschick is in charge of GIS for the Department of Emergency Services. He says everyone, rural or urban, should know their 911 address.
“It’s a collaborative effort, honestly, between tribal, county, city and township, so the number of jurisdictions is fairly great. Most everyone is either used to having a physical address and/or a combination of a physical and mailing address, and that’s where they get confused. So having it; knowing it, is really important,” shared the GIS Section Chief.
If you don’t know your address, Peterschick says call your county’s 911 coordinator to find out.
Chairman Fox says the new grid system wasn’t up and running prior to the June election, so very few MHA members were able to replace invalid IDs. He says things should be different come November.