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Judge denies tribe's effort to halt North Dakota voter ID law

By Jessie Higgins

Nov. 2 (UPI) -- A federal judge in North Dakota has denied a Native American tribe's last-ditch attempt to suspend the state's voter ID law.

In his denial, U.S. District Judge Daniel L. Hovland said it was "highly important to preserve the status quo when elections are fast approaching."

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Early voting has begun in South Dakota. Election Day is Tuesday.

"A further injunction on the eve of the election will create as much confusion as it will alleviate," Hovland said.

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However, the judge voiced "great concern" over the allegations made in the lawsuit.

The suit, filed Tuesday by the Spirit Lake Tribe, alleges that the state's voter ID law will prevent some Native Americans from voting.

North Dakota requires voters to show government-issued identification that includes residential addresses before casting a ballot. However, many homes on reservations do not have a valid street address, the suit said.

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In the weeks leading up to the election, groups have scrambled to help Native Americans get the necessary addresses to vote. They've discovered there are homes on reservations that do not have addresses, or the occupants don't know them. In some cases, the address that a Native American uses to receive mail does not match the one the state election office has on file, according to the suit.

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Thursday's order denies the tribe's motion for a temporary restraining order, which would have suspended the law in time for Tuesday's election. It is not a ruling on the broader case.

"The allegations will require a detailed response from the secretary of state as this case proceeds," the ruling said. "The litany of problems identified in this lawsuit were clearly predictable and certain to occur."

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The Native American Rights Fund has advised Native Americans who are denied from voting by poll workers to ask for a set-aside ballot and contact their community leaders for assistance.

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