Bill introduced to protect Native American voting rights

November 22, 2018
In The News

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Tom O'Halleran, D-Ariz., joined Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., to introduce the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018, legislation to provide the resources and oversight necessary to protect Native Americans’ access to the ballot box.

The bill incorporates principles of self-determination into the electoral process, meaning that Indian tribes and their members will be the decision-makers when it comes to ensuring their communities and members have equal access to their constitutional right to vote.

Recent events highlight the urgency and necessity of federal legislation to secure the voting rights of Native American voters.

“Every American in every community has the right to vote but, unfortunately, for many living in tribal communities, access to the voting booth is not always guaranteed. From remote polling locations to a lack of language assistance, the barriers for these voters to exercise their right are often too high. This Congress has a responsibility to ensure every voter can participate in our democracy, and this legislation is an important step. I am proud to co-sponsor the Native American Voting Rights Act, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure tribal communities are represented in Washington,” O’Halleran said.

“Voting today anywhere in America should be easier, not harder,” Luján said. “Yet, Native Americans continue to face obstacles to exercising their fundamental right to participate in our democratic processes. This legislation will help create equal access to the ballot box for Native voters, ultimately strengthening our democracy and the voice of Native America.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., ranking member on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs; Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus; Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif.; Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wisc.; Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D- Washington, D.C.; Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif.; Rep. Darren Soto, D-Fla.; Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.; and Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif.

“This bill will help close many of the gaps in registration and accessibility that have persisted in Indian country,” Gallego said. “It is unacceptable in this day and age that any American faces barriers to participating in one of the most basic functions of our democracy.”

Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M., vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs; Senator Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.; and 11 additional Senate Democrats, the Native American Voting Rights Act would establish a Native American Voting Rights Task Force, increase Native access to voter registration sites and polling locations, and ensure equal treatment for tribal ID cards for voting purposes.