Jim Crow may be mostly a thing of the past, but not for Native Americans.
Voters’ experiences have varied greatly based on which county they live in. In Rolette County, where the Turtle Mountain Reservation is, they have been able to get addresses from the county and IDs from the tribe without much red tape. But at Standing Rock, in Sioux County, the 911 coordinator is the sheriff, Frank Landeis. That’s a deterrent to people who are afraid to interact with law enforcement, much less tell the sheriff where they live, and Sheriff Landeis is not easy to reach.
When Ms. Finn called him on Oct. 12, three days after the Supreme Court ruling, he was out. On Oct. 15, he said he was transporting prisoners and could not assign addresses that day. He was also unavailable when The New York Times called on Friday.
And in an episode recounted independently by Ms. Finn, Mr. Semans and Ms. Young, a tribal elder, Terry Yellow Fat, got through to Sheriff Landeis only to be assigned the address of a bar near his house. Mr. Semans worried that, in addition to playing into stereotypes about Native Americans and alcohol, this could expose Mr. Yellow Fat to fraud charges if he voted under an address he knew was incorrect.
Then there are more subtle problems. For instance, while Sioux County does not offer early voting, it does — like all North Dakota counties — allow early, no-excuse-needed absentee voting, which is functionally almost identical. But Mr. Semans said that when one woman went to the county auditor’s office and asked to vote early, the auditor, Barbara Hettich, simply told her there was no early voting and didn’t mention the absentee option. (Ms. Hettich did not respond to a request for comment.)
Later, when Ms. Young filled out an absentee ballot, Ms. Hettich told her she had to use blue ink or the ballot would not be counted. But literature on the secretary of state’s website says ballots must be filled out in black ink. Mr. Semans ping-ponged back and forth between Standing Rock and Bismarck, trying to get a guarantee that ballots would not be thrown out because of ink color. On Friday, Lee Ann Oliver in the secretary of state’s office told The Times that both blue and black were acceptable.