The North Dakota University System, which oversees the state’s public colleges, removed several sections of its flawed voter information guide yesterday under threat of a lawsuit.
We pointed out the problems in the voter guide in a post Oct. 15. After being tipped off that the guide was bullshit, we looked at it and noticed that it scared students from voting using a completely legal voting option for people without valid ID called the sworn affidavit.
By signing a sworn affidavit, you promise that you’re a resident in the district where you’re voting.
NDUS’s guide told students they could lose their scholarships for voting using a sworn affidavit. No specific evidence was provided, but NDUS said it had something to do with residency requirements. This struck us immediately as very fishy, given that two months ago, the state was ordered by a federal judge to reinstate the sworn affidavit as a voting option after it was eliminated by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2013.
After noticing this, we contacted NDUS to ask for details: How exactly would voting using a completely legal method endanger a student’s financial aid? Instead of offering details, NDUS responded on Oct. 18 with a defensive statement.
“The language on the website is clear,” spokeswoman Billie Jo Lorius wrote us. “If scholarships are tied to residency, then students should be cautious and cognizant about where they are swearing residency.”
Meanwhile, we reached out to Bismarck attorney Tom Dickson, who represents several Native Americans in a lawsuit challenging North Dakota’s voter ID law, which eliminated the sworn affidavit as a voting option. The judge in Dickson’s case issued an order on Sept. 20 reinstating sworn affidavits as an option.
Dickson told us that NDUS’s voter guide was “beyond inappropriate.”
Apparently, NDUS now agrees. Yesterday, it edited its voter information guide to remove all references to students losing scholarships.
Why? According to the Grand Forks Herald, the changes were made after a North Dakota lawyer threatened a lawsuit over “voter intimidation practices.”
We suspect the lawyer in question is Tom Dickson (who, by the way, recently represented Democracy Now host Amy Goodman after she was arrested at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.) We’ve reached out to him for comment.
We’ve also asked NDUS if they plan to issue an apology for fucking up. Great job, though, on fixing it … six days before Election Day.