ACLU of Minnesota Wins Temporary Restraining Order in Indian Voting Rights Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Minnesota
October 29, 2004 12:00 am

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Court Rules Voters May Use Tribal ID Cards on Election Day

ST. PAUL– In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, the National Congress of American Indians and three Minnesota voters, a federal court today issued a temporary restraining order allowing the use of Indian tribal ID cards as proper identification on Election Day.

“We are pleased with this victory, and we look forward to a large turnout on Tuesday,” said ACLU of Minnesota Executive Director Chuck Samuelson, noting that the nonpartisan ACLU does not take any position on candidates.

The lawsuit charged that Minnesota’s voting requirements are more restrictive than the federal Help America Vote Act, and that state law unfairly targets American Indian voters. Current Minnesota law prohibits the use of a valid, federally recognized tribal ID for election-day registration if the citizen does not live on a reservation. Additionally, if the voter’s tribal ID does not include an address, Minnesota law prohibits acceptance of the ID together with a current utility bill to show the current address.

This in spite of the fact that the state allows other forms of ID without a current address if provided with a current utility bill. Judge James M. Rosenbaum issued the order to allow the use of tribal ID cards with or without addresses as valid identification for the purposes of Tuesday’s election and ordered the Secretary of State to immediately notify county auditors of this decision. When issuing his decision, Rosenbaum said that the ACLU of Minnesota would also likely win on the merits of its Help America Vote Act challenge.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Bonnie Dorr-Charwood, a member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibe, and Richard Smith, a member of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

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