Wyoming Lawmakers Consider Allowing Tribal IDs For Voter Registration

Jul 3, 2019

Credit WyoFile/Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming State Legislature’s Select Committee on Tribal Relations is considering whether tribal ID cards can be used as proof of identity for state voter registration.

Representatives from the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Business Councils met with members of that committee as well as Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Buchanan in June to discuss the possibility.

“I think [Buchanan] was a little surprised at the vetting process to obtain a tribal ID,” said Karen Snyder, a member of the Eastern Shoshone Business Council. “You have to be 18 years of age. You have to be able to produce a verifiable birth certificate, a social security card, proof of physical address, a mailing address, and your Certified Degree of Indian Blood.”

Tribal IDs are issued by federally recognized tribes as proof of tribal citizenship. They can also be used at airport check-in for domestic travel and as proof of identity on federal forms such as the I-9.

Fremont County Representative Lloyd Larsen of District 54 said he believes there is support in the legislature for the change, but federal requirements could get in the way.

“[A driver’s license] allows you to access a database that can tell if you’re actually a resident, it can tell if you’re a felon, any of those things that would preclude you from being allowed to vote,” Larsen said. Tribal IDs typically don’t allow access to that information.

“I’m not aware of anybody that has any heartburn with the concept. It’s just, how do we get it done and comply with the federal regulations?”

Many of Wyoming’s neighbors, including Idaho, Montana and South Dakota, allow tribal IDs as proof of identity for voter registration. Larsen said the Secretary of State’s office is looking to some of those states as models for how Wyoming could implement the change.

Larsen said that including either a driver’s license number or the last four digits of an individual’s social security number on tribal identification would likely satisfy federal requirements. But Eastern Shoshone Councilor Snyder believes that requirement would infringe on tribal sovereignty, since the format of tribal IDs is determined by tribal enrollment codes.

“But I think we definitely have room to come up with some innovative workarounds like some of the other states have,” Snyder said. “If we can agree that the tribal ID is a verifiable, stand-alone document, we’re going to see a lot more of our tribal members come out and vote.”

This comes after allegations by the Wyoming Democratic Party that tribal members had their votes suppressed in Fremont County during the 2018 midterm election. In May, an investigation concluded that Fremont County clerk employees had been confused about where tribal members could register to vote and whether they could use their tribal IDs, but that no tribal members were ultimately deterred from voting.