With this statement, U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland issued an injunction preventing the State from disallowing thousands of North Dakota residents their right to vote.
This decision was a victory for Native American citizens and others who have been denied their fundamental right to vote in elections since the Legislature approved voter restrictions in 2013.
As introduced on January 17, 2013, HB 1332 was a one paragraph amendment intended to restrict the voting rights of college students by changing residency requirements to a date preceding the beginning of classes.
The bill was assigned to the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee Chaired by Representative Jim Kasper. A hearing on the original bill was conducted on February 7th. On the morning of February 10th, Boehning verbally informed the committee of his intentions to amend the bill (although no language was presented).
When Kasper reconvened his committee on February 11th, Boehning presented his ‘hog-house’* amendment to HB1332 which represented ALEC’s model voter restriction plans. This was the FIRST TIME Committee members saw this language. Five minutes later, Kasper insisted on action which sent the hog-housed bill to the floor on a 10 to 4 party line vote in the committee.
*Hog-house amendment – refers to an amendment that fundamentally changes the content after public hearings have been held on the original measure, thereby preventing public notification and input.
During floor debate, Democratic-NPL legislators complained about the committee actions which circumvented public notice on a brand new voter restriction measure, Kasper defended the actions suggesting that Boehning’s verbal description was somehow sufficient and that 5 minutes of amendment availability was more than enough time for public input and notification!
The amended bill was first approved by the House on a party line vote of 72 to 21. It was passed by the Senate similarly on April 3rd by a vote of 30 to 16.
When the measure came to the House floor for final approval, Kasper justified the legislation suggesting affidavits signed by citizens (under penalty of law) were somehow a voter fraud issue. Kasper stated that the bill would “assure rightful voters are able to vote”. During the entire debate, proponents could not demonstrate that ND had a voter fraud issue. What Kasper and his allies did say was that there was a ‘student issue’ and they suggested voters who didn’t have a picture ID who signed affidavits were somehow committing fraud.
Those affidavit voters included college students, the elderly, the poor, Native Americans, etc. Demographically speaking, these groups tend to vote in greater percentages for Democrats. THIS was the real reason for the bill – to restrict the voting rights for political advantage.
Judge Hovland clearly understood this when he admonished the State by writing, “The public interest in protecting the most cherished right to vote for thousands of Native Americans who currently lack a qualifying ID and cannot obtain one, outweighs the purported interest and arguments of the State. No eligible voter, regardless of their station in life, should be denied the opportunity to vote. ”
Hovland’s decision was a clear slap down of Jim Kasper’s efforts to tilt elections in his favor. It was an ill advised effort meant only to restrict voters’ most cherished right.
Judge Hovland’s decision is just one more instance where Kasper’s agenda has been denied by the courts or rejected by ND voters. Simply consider his votes in favor of every bill on women’s health that were determined to be unconstitutional, his vote to for a constitutional measure to politicize higher education (rejected by voters) and his vote allow corporate farming (rejected by voters).
This election it is time to remove Al Carlson’s First Lieutenant, Representative Jim Kasper, and refocus the legislative agenda toward toward issues citizens really care about.