As 2024 vote looms, ND Tribal advocates ramp up outreach
Friday, September 22, 2023
While North Dakota does not have voter registration, civic engagement groups say efforts are still needed to help underserved populations get prepared to vote.
An event this week focused on helping Native American communities. Tuesday was National Voter Registration Day, and North Dakota Native Vote began its own outreach initiative. "Voter I-D Day" involved working with enrollment offices on reservations around the state, where members could come in and update their tribal ID.
Nicole Donaghy, executive director of the group, said it helps them comply with the state's strict requirements for casting a ballot. She pointed out the awareness issue still comes up in elections.
"Being on standby, we would have to explain the consent decree and how our relatives without proper ID should be able to cast their ballot, and then come back and have it verified," Donaghy explained.
The controversial law led to a consent decree in 2020 after some tribes brought legal challenges, arguing it placed extreme burdens on Indigenous communities. Donaghy noted this week's event saw 150 people update their IDs ahead of the 2024 election. She emphasized the outreach also helps county elections workers know how to review ID cards designed specifically for tribal members.
Donaghy added they continue to address more than just voting requirements. They are monitoring a ballot measure initiative still taking shape which would overhaul North Dakota elections. Among other things, it would ban early voting. Donaghy stressed if approved, the negative impact would be far-reaching.
"These decision-makers that are leading these efforts really don't consider their rural constituents and how this will impact, not only our tribal communities, but people that live very rural in North Dakota," Donaghy contended. "It creates hardships for people that do depend on mail-in ballots so that they can vote early."
Under the proposal, North Dakota would only use paper ballots, and all voting would essentially happen on Election Day with minor exceptions for those needing to vote absentee. Those behind the petition argue it is about restoring election integrity.
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