- By Native News Online Staff
ATLANTA — Native American voter advocacy organizations and a Georgia tribe are launching a voter education campaign in Georgia in support of federal legislation that will prevent anti-democracy partisans in states from imposing voter suppression laws intended to block members of tribes, nations, and other minority communities from casting ballots in local, state and federal elections.
Four Directions Native Vote, the leading Native American voter mobilization group in the United States; The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, based in Whigham, Ga.; and the Global Indigenous Council, an advocacy organization that seeks to unite Indigenous communities on common issues, are leading the voter education effort campaign in Georgia, where one of the most destructive voter suppression laws was recently passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.
Despite laughable and dangerous lies that these voter suppression laws bills are supposedly going to strengthen democracy, Georgia voter restriction provisions target Native Americans that were part of an unprecedented voter mobilization in the January Senate runoff elections.
“Native American voters in Georgia have been ignored, dismissed and disregarded despite our history here, but now we are organizing and building a viable voting bloc and forging critical alliances,” Marian McCormick, principal chief of The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, said. “We cannot revert back to the voter suppression practices that for too long were imposed in Georgia.”
On Monday, the groups announced the placement of their first billboard in the Atlanta area at 1551 Phoenix Blvd., College Park, Ga. It’s best viewed from I-285 Eastbound, at the Riverdale Road exit. The billboard carries a powerful message — “You took our land. You took our children. Now you’re taking our vote?” — overlaid on an image of the children’s graveyard at the Carlisle (PA) Indian Industrial School. The U.S. government forced Native American children into boarding schools, leaving their families at young ages, and erasing their indigenous cultures, languages, tribal names, religious and spiritual beliefs. Hundreds of children died at Carlisle, never to return to their families.
Four Directions Native Vote is working with The Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe, providing non-legal support services to the tribe for its part in a joint lawsuit with other voting rights groups filed last month against elected officials in Georgia. The lawsuit accuses Georgia officials of intent to disenfranchise minority voters. The Georgia NAACP, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, League of Women Voters of Georgia, GALEO, Common Cause, and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe all joined in the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
Four Directions' Native Vote and the Global Indigenous Council launched their multi-state voter education effort last month in Arizona, placing their first billboards in that state, which also is seeking to impose voter suppression and obstruction laws on voters there.
“Voter access has been a hard-fought battle for Native Americans. Any concerted effort to limit the ability of Native Americans to vote must be met with rigorous opposition,” said OJ Semans, a co-founder of Four Directions Native Vote, a nonpartisan organization that took a leading role in the Arizona voter registration and turnout effort last November.
“Democracy in America is at risk,” stated Tom Rodgers, president of the Global Indigenous Council, which worked with Four Directions Native Vote in Arizona and Georgia and led its own successful Native American ballot access project in Montana. “There are powerful forces at work that are willing to destroy democracy rather than trying to compete in free and fair elections.”
In coming weeks, the Native American voter advocacy campaign will include a comprehensive multi-media outreach and education effort targeting Indigenous Americans and the ever-increasing ranks of non-Natives allied with Indigenous Americans. Direct outreach to tribes, nations, villages and Native American leadership and membership organizations is already underway and will be supported by traditional media outreach, advertising, and social media.
The campaign to protect and preserve Native American enfranchisement coincides with other efforts by organizations that support the voting rights of Blacks, Hispanics, disabled, and young voters, all of which are groups targeted in voter suppression bills now being introduced in dozens of states, primarily by extremist legislators.
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