A federal judge ruled Tuesday that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe can sue the State of North Dakota for refusing to issue voting-rights permits for tribal members before the November election, a decision that legal experts called a significant victory for Indian voting rights.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland ruled that the tribe had shown it had a “uniquely acute interest” in its voting rights because a large portion of its membership was jailed or on the move at the time of the upcoming election.
“The court is convinced by the state’s extensive burden that the Sioux will, if successful, significantly improve the Tribe’s ability to vote effectively in the future,” he wrote.
Most federal Indian reservations, known as Indian Country, are located in a multi-state area on or near the Great Plains. Most reservations have long had tribal members without voting rights; the last time voting rights were granted to Native Americans in North Dakota, before this decade, was 1938.
It is not clear when the tribe will appeal the decision or even if the tribe had begun drafting or submitting its claim. But it does have the support of the National Congress of American Indians, which praised Hovland’s decision in a statement.
“This ruling is a victory for Native people who have long been denied voting rights,” the group said. “Voting is at the core of participation in democracy and the right to vote is a fundamental American right guaranteed by the Constitution and has long been a cornerstone of self-determination for all Americans.”