Port: Voter ID vote is about partisanship

How can the requirement for a residential address on identification used for voting be unconstitutional when our participation in the American form of government, as defined by the Constitution itself, is defined by our place of residence?

Voters show their I.D.'s Tuesday at the Alerus Center for the sales tax vote. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

MINOT, N.D. — In his recent story about the on-going legal fight over North Dakota's voter ID laws, reporter Jeremy Turley revealed something interesting about the dispute at the heart of that fight.

Here's what he wrote: "The plaintiffs are seeking a declaration from the court that the laws violate their constitutional rights and an injunction that would remove the street address requirement."

What occasioned Turley's article was federal Judge Daniel Hovland denying the State of North Dakota's motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by some of North Dakota's Native American tribes, but what Turley wrote about the legal arguments the tribe is putting forward needs to be spotlighted.

The tribe — or, at least, their lawyers — think it's unconstitutional to require that voter identification requirements include a residential address.

This is nonsensical, and not just because the tribes themselves have a history of requiring identification to vote in tribal elections . I know that Spirit Lake, specifically, has required participants in tribal elections to bring an ID to the polls, presumably to protect the outcome of those elections from the influence of those not qualified to vote in them.


Apportioned representation is a cornerstone of the American system of government.

From the beginning, our nation has been divided up into jurisdictions called states, with each state apportioned representation in the Senate.

Within each state are districts with lines based on population (or, unfortunately, partisan considerations , but that's a topic for another column) and each is allotted a representative in the House.

The states also draw their own district lines to apportion representation in their respective legislatures.

Drilling down even further, local governments often define precincts or wards as a way to apportion representation in, say, city or county government.

All of this is based on is where you live.

Your residential address places you in a city ward or a legislative district or a sovereign U.S. state, and it dictates which elections you may participate in.

If you live in North Dakota, you're not allowed to dart across the Red River and cast a ballot to influence the outcome of a competitive race in Minnesota.


If you aren't a member of the Spirit Lake Nation, you don't get to vote in tribal elections.

Which brings us to the concept of voter ID.

What good is identification if it doesn't verify where you live?

How can the requirement for a residential address on identification used for voting be unconstitutional when our participation in the American form of government, as defined by the Constitution itself, is defined by our place of residence?

This is not an unreasonable thing, nor is it the obstacle to voting that some make it out to be, as evidenced by the record-setting voter turnout in North Dakota's tribal communities last election cycle , something which happened while our neighbors there complied with the state's voter ID laws.

An unfortunate reality of the imbroglio around voter ID is that much of it is driven by partisanship.

Democrats have long deployed accusations of racism as a way to engender support in minority communities. Indeed, one of the lawyers representing the tribes in this lawsuit is Tim Purdon, a former Obama-appointed federal prosecutor and a truly obnoxious partisan.

This lawsuit is less about civil rights, I'm afraid, than angering and dividing us as a way to achieve certain political outcomes.


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

Related Topics: ELECTION 2020
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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