O'Halleran, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Protect Native American Voting Rights

November 15, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. - This week, Rep. Tom O'Halleran joined Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) to introduce the Native American Voting Rights Act of 2018, landmark 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 rights 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 cosponsor the Native American Voting Rights Act, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure tribal communities are represented in Washington,” said Rep. O’Halleran.

“Voting today anywhere in America should be easier, not harder,” said Rep. Luján. “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 cosponsored by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA).

“This bill will help close many of the gaps in registration and accessibility that have persisted in Indian Country,” said Rep. Gallego. “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.”

“A strong and vibrant democracy relies on the civic engagement of every voice,” said Rep. McCollum. “I’m proud to join Rep. Luján in introducing legislation to remove barriers to voter participation for Native Americans, because every American citizen deserves the right to vote unimpeded. This legislation will empower tribal communities in their efforts to improve access to voter registration, education on voting procedure, and ensuring equal treatment of tribal identification at the ballot box.”

Introduced in the Senate by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and eleven 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.