The North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party is running a Facebook ad in North Dakota that claims your hunting license is at risk. It’s not.
"Attention hunters: Voting in North Dakota could cost you your out-of-state hunting licenses," says the Facebook ad, which began running on Nov. 1.
We ran the ad by Cameron Wimpy, research director at MIT Election Data and Science Lab.
"I do absolutely think it is voter suppression to try and trick folks this way," Wimpy said.
Most North Dakota hunters can breathe easy.
If you have an out-of-state hunting license anywhere outside of North Dakota -- and it’s an out-of-state license, rather than a residential one for residents of that state -- you’re safe.
If you have a North Dakota residential hunting license, you’re also safe, because in applying for that license you already gave up any other residential licenses. North Dakota’s Game and Fish department doesn’t allow a person to hold two residential licenses. (Those tend to expire within a season or year anyway.)
In theory, this applies to folks living in North Dakota who have a residential license in a state other than North Dakota, which conceivably could be people who have just moved. (This is the basis on which the North Dakota Democratic–Nonpartisan League Party, which is the state’s branch of the Democratic Party, defended the ad.)
Would casting a vote in North Dakota make even those licenses void? We found no evidence of that.
We called the Fish and Wildlife offices in North Dakota’s neighboring states: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota. They all told us that voting in North Dakota wouldn’t make them lose their licenses.
"If they purchased that license prior to leaving Montana as legal resident, it is valid until the expiration date, no matter what they do in North Dakota," said Ron Jendro, the assistant chief of enforcement for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.
The same goes for Wyoming, South Dakota and Minnesota; the licenses are valid until they expire.
For other states, establishing residency elsewhere means their resident hunting license is void. That’s the case in North Dakota and Kentucky, the two other states whose hunting permit offices we called.
But there’s no way that casting a vote would suddenly make those licenses null. Lee Ann Oliver, elections specialist at the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office, told us they have a central voter file, but fish and wildlife departments don’t get access to that database.
And anyway, in order to vote, a person has to already have established residency.
"They’re putting the cart before the horse," Oliver said. "You have to be a resident before you can vote."
Voters can show a North Dakota driver’s license, nondriver’s identification card, tribal ID or long term care card. If those don’t include a current North Dakota residential address or date of birth, the voter may supplement their ID with a variety of documents, like bills or bank statements.
North Dakota Democratic-NPL said, "Attention hunters: Voting in North Dakota could cost you your out-of-state hunting licenses."
It’s hard to interpret this in any way except that it seeks to discourage people from voting. But voting will not cost anyone their hunting licenses. People with out-of-state hunting licenses get to keep their licenses; the warning only applies to people with residential licenses in another state who recently moved to North Dakota. Voting would not make those null, but establishing residency in another state, which is a prerequisite to voting, might, depending on the state.
The ad employs a ridiculous argument. We rate this statement Pants on Fire!