Federal Judges Revive North Dakota Voter ID Law on Appeal

(Bloomberg) -- North Dakota voters will have to show identification that includes a street address before they can cast a ballot in November, a federal court ruled on Monday.

While opponents had successfully sued to block the provision, a St. Louis-based U.S. appeals court put that lower-court order on hold. In a 2-1 ruling, the majority concluded that to do otherwise would cause irreparable harm to North Dakota’s secretary of state, which is responsible for election-day ballot collection.

“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 Steven M. Colloton wrote for the majority. “Enough wrong-precinct voters could even affect the outcome of a local election."

North Dakota, with a population of about 755,400, has no registration requirement. Residents are allowed to appear at the polls on election day and cast a ballot, leaving it up to officials there to determine who is eligible, according to the appellate court.

The state implemented the residential address-specific measure last year. ID requirements include an address, legal name and date of birth. Without the proper identification, voters can supplement what they have with a utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or one of several other documents. Failing that, they can still cast a provisional ballot, subject to providing the required proof within six days.

Six Native Americans had challenged the provision, winning the court order allowing them to show ID with as little as a post-office box address. The lower court found that nearly 5,000 Native Americans and almost 65,000 non-native voters didn’t have the requisite proof. The appeals court said those voters still have more than a month to adapt to its decision.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.