Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) is currently battling to retain her Senate seat, but it’s not looking good. She’s long trailed her Republican challenger Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) in the polls, and last week, she voted against Brett Kavanaugh knowing full well it could hurt her chances to win in November. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court made it even more difficult for Heitkamp to carry her state next month, which Trump won in 2016 by over 35 percentage points. Though Kavanaugh did not participate in the vote, the nation’s highest court ruled to uphold a decision by the state’s courts that requires a residential street address in order to vote in the state’s elections. The decision is expected to disenfranchise much of the state’s Native American population, which lives largely on tribal land and whose IDs typically feature P.O. boxes.
The complete tally for the vote was not disclosed, but Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan both dissented. “The risk of voter confusion appears severe here because the injunction against requiring residential-address identification was in force during the primary election and because the Secretary of State’s website announced for months the ID requirements as they existed under that injunction,” Ginsburg wrote in her dissenting opinion. “Reasonable voters may well assume that the IDs allowing them to vote in the primary election would remain valid in the general election. If the Eighth Circuit’s stay is not vacated, the risk of disfranchisement is large.”
Heitkamp won her Senate seat in 2012 by a slim margin, and with the help of the state’s Native American community, which supported her overwhelmingly. As was pointed out Tuesday by Mother Jones, the state’s Republicans began working to restrict voter rights almost immediately after Heitkamp’s victory. Though the law requiring voters to provide a residential address was challenged by the state’s Native American community, it was upheld last month by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and again on Tuesday by the Supreme Court. This means that many of the Native Americans wishing to reelect Heitkamp next month will have a hard time doing so.
The decision could be a death knell for Heitkamp, whose days in the Senate appeared to be numbered even before she voted against Kavanaugh. Heitkamp said that she had been planning to vote for Kavanaugh, but couldn’t do so in good conscience after witnessing his behavior while testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the sexual assault allegations levied against him. Earlier this week, she released an ad explaining her decision.
Cramer appeared on Fox & Friends Wednesday morning to discuss the vote. The show’s hosts couldn’t seem to process Heitkamp’s decision outside of its political implications. Ainsley Earhardt was befuddled as to why she voted against Kavanaugh despite trailing in the polls. “I was surprised because she’s built an entire brand on being the bipartisan senator from North Dakota who reaches across the aisle, who always does what’s right for North Dakota independent of her leadership and votes with President Trump when it’s important for North Dakota. She blew all of that up, all of her millions of dollars of branding, in one vote.”