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Native American Voting Rights Need Protecting

Native American Voting Rights Need Protecting
October 08
09:13 2019

By John Christian Hopkins


Native Voting Rights Need Protecting

Native Americans were granted citizenship status in 1924 and with it the right to vote.

But there have been attempts over the years curb the rights of Native voters.

In the 2016 presidential elections, a few states enacted laws where a person had to produce ID with a physical address in order to vote. Those states claimed it was to prevent voter fraud. But was that the real reason?

The new voting laws proved a roadblock for many Native Americans who lived in rural areas and were more likely to have a post office listed on their ID rather than a physical address.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer are among the Native voices urging Congress to enact a Native American Voting Rights Act.

The act is needed to ensure Native voters have access to the ballot, Nez and Lizer told a U.S. House Subcommittee on Elections.

“The right to vote is sacred. We want congress to pass a Native American voting rights act to address issues such as language barriers and rural addressing, and to protect the voting rights of all Native Americans,” Nez said.

The Subcommittee on Elections is chaired by U.S. Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH). The committee has held a series of field hearings across the country to receive testimony from voters, groups, and tribes.

Nez focused on addressing language barriers by ensuring that all election materials are made available in both the English and Navajo languages.

He also highlighted the challenges of making voting sites accessible for those living in rural areas, particularly the elderly and disabled, in addition to resolving the disenfranchisement of voters that have differing mailing and physical addresses.

“In addition, if there are tribal elections on the same day as the state and federal elections, an individual may be required to travel to two separate locations, in two separate communities to cast ballots on election day,” Nez said.

This can lead to individuals spending many hours in one-day driving and waiting in line to vote,” he added.

More early voting sites are needed on the reservation, Nez said.

“In 2018, Apache County had only two early voting locations on the Navajo Nation in the southern part of the reservation. This results in community members from Teecnospos Chapter, located near the Utah border, having to drive a 95-mile one-way trip to vote early,” Nez said.

Recently, the Arizona State Legislature passed a bill changing the state’s primary election date to the first Tuesday in the month of August every election year.

But Nez said that such a change would disenfranchise Navajo voters because the Navajo Nation primary election date no longer aligns with the state’s primary election.

Historically, voter participation for the Navajo Nation is lower when the county, state, and federal election dates differ from the Navajo Nation’s election dates.

{“It is unconscionable to me that someone would have to drive an hour or two or three hours to cast a ballot. It is un-American.” Fudge said.

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Summary: Native Voting Rights Need Protecting


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