Secretary of State Agrees to Settle Voter ID Lawsuits by Entering Into Consent Decree with North Dakota Tribes

In the wake of the district court’s denial of the State’s motion to dismiss, the Secretary of State has agreed to settle two federal voting rights lawsuits brought by two Native American Tribes and several individual voters over North Dakota’s voter ID law.

The law requires voters to present identification listing their residential street address – a substantial hurdle for many Native Americans living on reservations, because the state has failed to assign residential street addresses to homes on tribal reservations.

In January 2016, eight Native Americans, represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), Tom Dickson and Rich de Bodo filed suit to block the North Dakota voter ID law, which disenfranchised Native American voters and violated both state and federal constitutions as well as the Voting Rights Act.

On October 30, 2018, NARF, Campaign Legal Center (CLC), Robins Kaplan LLP, and Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the Spirit Lake Tribe and six individual plaintiffs to ensure that eligible Native American voters residing on reservations in North Dakota would be able to cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm elections and in all future elections. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with approximately 5,868 residents of voting-age that could be affected by the law, joined the Spirit Lake case in early 2019.

“This fight has been ongoing for over four years, and we are delighted to come to an agreement that protects native voters,” said Matthew Campbell, attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.  “It has always been our goal to ensure that every native person in North Dakota has an equal opportunity to vote, and we have achieved that today. We thank the Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and the individual native voters that stood up for the right to vote.”

“We are pleased with the result of the settlement. It was a breakthrough for the state to recognize its responsibility to ensure that Native Americans have access to the identification needed to exercise their voting rights,” said Paul Smith, vice president at CLC. “In order to have a successful 2020 election, the state must follow through with a robust voter and poll worker education campaign to ensure that proper protocols are followed so people aren’t rejected because of the state’s failed addressing system.”

Backstory

Facing a trial date in the Spirit Lake case in May of this year, the Secretary of State announced an emergency rulemaking last week in an attempt to address some of the issues raised by the lawsuit. At an in-person mediation at the North Dakota capitol on February 6, 2020 with representatives from the Spirit Lake Nation and attorneys from CLC and NARF, the Secretary agreed to take additional steps to ensure that eligible Native American voters are not disenfranchised due to the restrictive voter ID law.

Because of the state’s broken addressing system, many Native Americans living on reservations do not have or do not know their residential addresses, and are therefore unable to comply with the North Dakota voter ID law. During the 2018 election, the Spirit Lake Nation and the Standing Rock Sioux tribe expended substantial resources to ensure that their tribal members would have the identification necessary to vote, including by shouldering the burden of identifying and providing residential street addresses for their members.

The unique burdens faced by Native Americans in North Dakota – including a severe housing shortage – mean that tribal members are much more likely to have moved in the intervening time, or to be homeless or precariously housed. As a result, determining members’ residential addresses – and providing them with the documentation necessary to vote – is an ongoing effort that requires substantial resources.

Details of the agreement

In addition to the previously announced rulemaking, which requires the state to recognize tribal IDs and supplemental documentation issued to tribal members, the Secretary has agreed to enter into a binding consent decree, enforced by a federal court order, which will ensure that Native American voters who do not have or do not know their residential street address are able to vote.

The Secretary of State also agreed to work with the Department of Transportation to develop and implement a program with tribal governments to distribute free non-driver photo IDs on every reservation statewide within 30 days of future statewide elections.

In the 2020 election, Native American voters will have the opportunity to mark their residence on a map, a process that is commonly used by voters in other states. The burden will then shift to the state to verify the residential street addresses for these voters, to provide that information to the voter and the tribe, and to ensure those voters’ ballots are counted.

The court-ordered consent decree will include details about what the state must do to educate the public and train poll workers on the new procedures, as well as measures designed to enable the Tribes to ensure the state is complying with its obligations under the agreement.

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[Click here to read a joint statement on the settlement by North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger, Spirit Lake Nation, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe]

Materials in Navajo Nation, et al. v. Reagan – Voting Rights Litigation

Here are the materials in Navajo Nation, et al. v. Reagan, et al. No. CV-18-08329-PCT-DWL (Ariz. D. Ct. 2019).

The Amended Complaint sought:

[D]eclaratory and injunctive relief, compelling the Defendants to (a) allow early voters who do not sign their ballot affidavit to have the same opportunity to cure the ballot deficiency that is provided to voters with a mismatched signature, (b) allow early voters who do not sign their ballot affidavit to have the same chance to cure their ballot as voters who vote by conditional provisional ballots, (c) provide translators certified as proficient in the Navajo language for all future early voting and election-day polling sites, (d) provide translation of instructions for casting an early ballot in Navajo over the radio for the 30 days leading up to an election, (e) establish additional in-person voter registration sites, and (f) establish additional early voting sites on the Reservation for all future elections that are open for consistent hours (at a minimum, each Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with no interruption during the lunch hour) during the 30 days leading up to the election. This relief is sought on the grounds that failure to provide the requested relief is a denial of the equal right to vote.

The lawsuit was settled, and the Settlements can be seen here:

Briefs in Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Fort Belknap Indian Community v. Trump (Keystone XL)

Here are the briefs on the United States’ and TransCanada’s Motions to Dismiss Rosebud and Fort Belknap’s treaty and jurisdiction claims regarding the Keystone XL Pipeline.

News coverage here, and more information here.  Previous posts on this case are here.

Reminder: Apply to Clerk at NARF by September 2, 2016

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (“NARF”) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

NARF is currently seeking candidates for its Summer 2017 Clerkships! Each year, NARF conducts a nation-wide search for law students to participate in its Law Clerk Program. Positions are available in all three of NARF’s offices: Anchorage, AK; Boulder, CO; and Washington, D.C.

Here is the advertisement. The deadline to apply is September 2, 2016.

Save the Date: Apply to Clerk at NARF by September 2, 2016

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (“NARF”) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Summer Clerkships
NARF is currently seeking candidates for its Summer 2017 Clerkships! Each year, NARF conducts a nation-wide search for law students to participate in its Law Clerk Program. Positions are available in all three of NARF’s offices: Anchorage, AK; Boulder, CO; and Washington, D.C.

Here is the advertisement. The deadline to apply is September 2, 2016.

NARF’s Alaska Office Seeks Applicants for Alaska Fellow Position

NARF’s Alaska office is seeking applicants with a strong background in federal Indian law and public service for a two-year fellowship as NARF’s Alaska Fellow.  Applicants must have a law degree from an accredited law school, a license to practice law in Alaska or the ability to be admitted by reciprocity or intention to sit for either the July 2016 or February 2017 bar exams, and experience working with American Indian or Alaska Native tribes.  Applications should be submitted no later than Friday, May 20, 2016, and more information can be found on the NARF website.

Reminder: Apply to Clerk at NARF by September 25, 2015

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (“NARF”) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Summer Clerkships
NARF is currently seeking candidates for its Summer 2016 Clerkships! Each year, NARF conducts a nation-wide search for law students to participate in its Law Clerk Program. Positions are available in all three of NARF’s offices: Anchorage, AK; Boulder, CO; and Washington, D.C.

Here is the advertisement. The deadline to apply is September 25, 2015.

NMLA staff attorney position available at Native American Program in Santa Ana – deadline August 14

From New Mexico Legal Aid and the State Bar of New Mexico:

Chris Vigil will leave the Native American Program at New Mexico Legal Aid next month to accept a position working on water rights adjudications with the New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts. It’s a great opportunity for Chris, but a loss for NMLA. We very much appreciate the great work Chris has done for our clients, and we wish him much success in his new position.

Chris’s decision means that NMLA is now seeking a staff attorney to join the Native American Program in Santa Ana. The NAP staff attorney will handle cases and matters involving federal Indian law and Indian tribal law issues, including representation of low income individuals in tribal and Pueblo courts.  In addition, the staff attorney may be required to handle poverty law issues involving consumer and family law issues in forums other than tribal court and to conduct outreach in tribal and Pueblo communities.  The attorney will also be active in relevant bar and community activities.

The Native American Program does creative, challenging and complex work in a context of rich cultures and diverse client communities. We are looking for highly motivated candidates who are passionate and strongly committed to helping NMLA better serve our Native American communities, including development of effective team strategies to handle complex advocacy and extended representation cases.

Requirements:  Experience with Native American legal issues and communities, especially New Mexico tribal and Pueblo communities, will be highly preferred. At least two years’ experience in handling criminal defense cases, especially those arising in tribal or Pueblo courts, will be highly preferred. Must be willing to travel. Candidates must possess excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to manage multiple tasks, and ability to manage a significant caseload and build collaborative relationships within the staff and the community.  Proficiency in relevant Native American languages is a plus.

Send a current resume and a letter of interest explaining what you would like to accomplish if you are selected for this position to:  jobs@nmlegalaid.org

Salary:  DOE, NMLA is an EEO Employer.

Deadline:  August 14, 2015.

Save the Date: Apply to Clerk at NARF by September 25, 2015

Founded in 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (“NARF”) is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide. NARF’s practice is concentrated in five key areas: the preservation of tribal existence; the protection of tribal natural resources; the promotion of Native American human rights; the accountability of governments to Native Americans; and the development of Indian law and educating the public about Indian rights, laws, and issues.

Summer Clerkships
NARF is currently seeking candidates for its Summer 2016 Clerkships! Each year, NARF conducts a nation-wide search for law students to participate in its Law Clerk Program. Positions are available in all three of NARF’s offices: Anchorage, AK; Boulder, CO; and Washington, D.C.

Here is the advertisement. The deadline to apply is September 25, 2015.