The Eighth Circuit ruled Monday that North Dakota residents can only vote if they show proof of their current residential address – not a mailing address.
A federal judge in North Dakota initially barred North Dakota Secretary of State Alvin Jaeger from enforcing the voter identification provision. But with midterm elections right around the corner on November 6, a Sixth Circuit ruled 2-1 that the injunction should be stayed or it would cause irreparable harm to Jaeger, who is in charge of collecting ballots.
North Dakota does not require voter registration, so election officials at the polls must determine whether someone is qualified to vote.
In February 2018, six members of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa residing in North Dakota challenged amendments to the state’s election statute requiring voters to provide a valid form of identification that contains the voter’s legal name, current residential street address and date of birth.
A federal judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, finding “that all of the plaintiffs were injured in fact by the requirement to maintain a ‘current residential street address,’ and thus an interest in real property, and the burden to maintain an ID or supplemental documents to prove he or she has a ‘current residential street address.’”
On Sept. 10, Jaeger appealed and asked for a stay of the injunction.
U.S. Circuit Judge Steven Colloton wrote Monday’s 11-page opinion, finding that blocking the residential address requirement could result in voter fraud.
“If the secretary must accept forms of identification that list only a mailing address, such as a post-office box, then voters could cast a ballot in the wrong precinct and dilute the votes of those who reside in the precinct,” Judge Colloton wrote. “Enough wrong-precinct voters could even affect the outcome of a local election.”
He also rejected the tribe members’ argument that Native American communities frequently do not have residential street addresses.
“But even assuming that some communities lack residential street addresses, that fact does not justify a statewide injunction that prevents the Secretary from requiring a form of identification with a residential street address from the vast majority of residents who have residential street addresses,” he wrote.
U.S. Circuit Judge Duane Benton concurred, while U.S. Circuit Judge Jane Kelly disagreed in a 6-page dissent.
“If the district court’s injunction was indeed overbroad, the appropriate response would be to narrow it to cover only individuals who lack a valid form of identification reflecting a current residential street address,” she wrote.