Voter ID Laws Especially Affect Native Americans
By Damian Morden-Snipper on 09/25/2012 @ 11:07 AM
Did you know that before the 2006 elections, no state required a voter to present a photo ID? A bill or bank statement was enough to prove one’s identity. Since then, thirty states have enacted some form of voter ID law (including states where you can provide a non-photo ID like a voter registration card). Twelve states now require a photo ID, and some of those require that the photo IDs come from government or accredited authorities. Opponents of voter ID laws assert that many minorities, seniors, veterans, young people, and poor people are likely to be unable to vote in the next election because these ID requirements place an unnecessary burden on those groups.
One group not often highlighted in the discussions of these laws is Native Americans. The federal government did not recognize Native Americans’ right to vote until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924. And until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states prevented Native Americans from voting using discriminatory voting requirements. Like many people affected by the voter ID laws, Native Americans may not have drivers’ licenses because they do not drive a car. They may live far away from offices or agencies that issue approved IDs. They may not be able to pay the requisite fees to obtain approved forms of ID. They may have moved recently and only have ID from another state.
Most importantly, however, they may live in a state that does not recognize their tribal identification card as a valid form of ID. Minnesota, for example, has on its ballot for the November 6 election a proposed amendment to the state constitution requiring “all voters to present valid photo identification to vote.” Tribal identification would not be accepted as a valid form of ID under this law. And although the amendment would require the state to issue a voter ID card for free to all eligible voters, the problem of a lost card or bureaucratic delays in issuing a card remains.
There isn’t much empirical evidence for the kind of voting fraud these laws claim to address, and strong evidence for the negative effects on voter turnout. Given the more pressing concerns facing the country – the economy, harsh federal budget cuts, climate disruption, poverty – these voter ID laws are at best a distraction from more urgent issues, and at worst a means to obstruct certain groups of eligible voters, such as Native Americans, from exercising their hard-won constitutional right to vote.