Port: Congressional hearing on voter ID was a shame and a sham

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Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. -- You probably read some headlines this week about a congressional hearing, hosted on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, at which North Dakota’s voter ID laws were characterized as a calculated effort to suppress Native American voters.

In truth the field hearing was a sham. A partisan stunt choreographed to produce the very headlines you read.

Before the hearing I interviewed Rep. Rodney Davis, the only Republican member of the committee, for my podcast .

“I hope it’s not a political rally,” he told me at the time.

I can’t speak for Rep. Davis, but I don’t think he got his wish.


He also wondered about the point of the hearing since the Democrat-controlled U.S. House has already acted.

“They’ve already taken action that would affect North Dakota,” Davis told me.

“They bragged about writing it in secret,” he added.

Typically legislative bodies hold hearings in order to get input on pending legislation.

This subcommittee held a field hearing, at taxpayer expense, to provide a venue for partisan talking points.

The list of witnesses and panelists for this hearing included Democratic party politicians and operatives, not to mention representatives of supposedly non-partisan groups which nonetheless worked closely with Democratic candidates in the last election cycle.

There was no discernible effort to present a balanced view of North Dakota’s voter ID laws.

Laws which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to be enforced last election cycle .


In the bizzaro world of this partisan hearing North Dakota’s evil Republican political leadership sought to disenfranchise Native American voters.

Out here in the real world turnout in the state’s Native American communities set records last cycle.

Why did Democrats choose to hold this hearing? By design, all they heard were viewpoints they already agree with on an issue they’ve already passed legislation to address earlier this year.

Their intent wasn’t a fair hearing.

A more likely explanation is Democrats, even after investing heavily in promoting to their credulous media allies the aforementioned conspiracy theories about voter suppression, lost a U.S. Senate seat they’d held since the Kennedy administration.

There are lots of reasons why they lost that seat -- their candidate, Heidi Heitkamp, ran a miserable campaign and Democrats generally aren’t seen as caring much for rural states these days -- but our liberal friends don’t want to talk about those things.

Instead of asking themselves why they’ve lost the faith of rural voters, and why supposedly moderate candidates like Heidi Heitkamp aren’t successful any more, they’d rather make facts-be-damned accusations of racism and voter suppression.

North Dakota’s voter laws are very easy to comply with. In fact, thanks to our unique lack of voter registration, our state may be the easiest place in the nation to cast a ballot. Still, there may be room for improvement, and I’m open to good faith efforts to find those improvements.


But that’s not what happened at Standing Rock this week.

Rob Port, founder of, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Listen to his Talk Podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RobPort.

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