Tribal Equal Access to Voting Act of 2015

Haskell Indian Nations University students produced their own take on Native Vote campaign posters. Brian Johnson produced this poster with model Charmayne Eldrige.  Both students are from the Navajo Nation. As the election nears, tribes and organizations are using a variety of strategies to make sure every vote counts in October 2014.

Haskell Indian Nations University students produced their own take on Native Vote campaign posters. Brian Johnson produced this poster with model Charmayne Eldrige.
Both students are from the Navajo Nation. As the election nears, tribes and organizations are using a variety of strategies to make sure every vote counts in October 2014.

WASHINGTON—On Thursday the U.S. Department of Justice proposed legislation to Congress designed to guarantee equal voting rights for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Many Indian reservations and Alaska Native Villages are located great distances from polling locations, which contributes to low voter participation rates among American Indians and Alaska Natives.

DOJ Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik stated in a letter transmitting the proposed bill, “The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring equal access to voting for Native American voters. We believe that the enclosed proposal would address serious voting obstacles faced by citizens who are members of Indian Tribes….”

The following are a few examples of the tremendous distances that Native voters encounter when attempting to vote:

  • Duck Valley Reservation – 104 miles from the nearest polling place in Elko, Nevada (a 2 hour, 7 minute drive).
  • Goshute Reservation – 163 miles from the nearest polling place in Erda, Utah (a 2 hour, 47 minute drive).
  • Hopi Tribe – 90 miles from the nearest polling place in Joseph City, Arizona (a 1 hour, 43 minute drive).
  • Navajo Nation (New Mexico) – Newcomb is 34 miles from Tohatchi polling place and 58 miles from the nearest Early Voting location in Gallup.
  • Navajo Nation (Arizona) – The nearest polling place is in Kayenta, which is 44 miles (50 minutes) from Shonto.
The legislation would require states whose territory contains an Indian reservation or Alaska Native Village to provide a minimum of one polling place for each Indian Tribe in a location  of its own choosing.

States also must make voting materials available and provide the same hours of operation and payment to poll workers at those locations as it does with all of its other locations. The obligation to provide polling places is contingent on an Indian Tribe filing a timely formal request.

“The right to vote is the bedrock of our democracy and must be ensured for Native people living on Indian reservations or in Alaska Native Villages,” said Brian Cladoosby, President of the National Congress of American Indians. “We are very supportive of this legislation because it comes directly from discussions with tribal leadership.”

For further information, please contact NCAI Deputy Director Robert Holden or General Counsel John Dossett at 202-466-7767 or rholden@ncai.org orjdossett@ncai.org.

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