North Dakota’s voter ID law requires voters to show proof of a current residential address in order to vote.
But this law is making it difficult for many Native Americans to hit the polls.
Nathalie Gomez reporting: Over the past week more than 1,000 people have walked through those doors behind me to make sure they can vote on election day.
“We have opened up ID’s to all the tribal members here,” said Jaime Azure, Chairman of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Tribe.
These ID’s will now reflect their picture, and a physical address.That last part, the physical address is the big issue on reservation land, because not having a residential street address is normal.
“It’s their constitutional right to go out and vote and no one is going to take that away from us,” said Azure.
The Chairman’s thoughts are filtering through the tribe as well, he’s seeing an energy that wasn’t there before.
“It actually gathered people together and I think it was a unification of sorts and now people are coming together and saying well we didn’t vote 2 years ago or 4 years ago and now they are saying we are going to vote,” said Azure.
The local DMV is seeing 200 people or more a day coming in for that free tribal ID. An ID that normally costs 10 to 15 dollars.
“It may not seem like a big number to you or me,” said Azure.
but Azure says they have a high unemployment rate in the Turtle Mountains which makes it hard for people to pay that fee.
“How do you make them make that decision between a physical ID to exercise their constitutional right to vote or milk for your children for three days,” said Azure.
“This is better, if we have our tribal ID’s with addresses on there,” said tribal member Mitchelle Delorme.
Delorme says she wants to be prepared — because in the past she couldn’t cast her vote.
“We got turned away at voting because we didn’t have a current address,” said Delorme.
On election day, transportation will be available to anyone on the reservation who wants to vote — there will also be ID machines at polling locations making those ID’s that meet the Voter ID law requirements.
and Azure hopes for a big voter turnout.
“I want 8,000 if we get 8,000 we will have a celebration,” said Azure.
and even with the barrier the voter ID law has posed for Native Americans, Azure says they’re now more inspired to have their voice heard.
Chairman Azure says right now his priority is getting tribal members to the polls.