White House releases Native voting rights report
Calls on Congress to pass Native American Voting Rights Act.
WASHINGTON — The White House today released a report highlighting a number of barriers facing Native American voters and offering several recommendations for policymakers to break down the barriers.
Key points, as highlighted by the White House, follow:
Congress should pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which includes the Native American Voting Rights Act. States do not need to wait for Congress to take this action — they can and should pass legislation incorporating and building upon the protections in the Native American Voting Rights Act, as several states since 2017 have already done.
Federal, state, and local policymakers should institutionalize engagement of Tribal leaders and Native communities, including in ensuring that county and municipal election officials locate offices and polling places serving Native communities for convenience to Native voters, and staff those sites with well-trained, bilingual members of those communities.
The U.S. Postal Service should evaluate whether it can add routes, offices, and staff hours or personnel in areas serving Native communities, and should prioritize assigning postal addresses to homes on Tribal lands.
Government offices with significant presence serving Native communities should expeditiously offer their programs for state designation under the National Voter Registration Act, and state officials should accept those requests for designation.
Jurisdictions serving Native voters should ensure that they offer effective language assistance through adequate translation of materials in appropriate media, even when no statutory mandate compels them to do so.
“This important report is the product of an extensive effort across the Administration — and it is also just a beginning,” says the White House. “There will be more to come in the weeks and months ahead, as agencies work with partners and allies to implement the report’s recommendations.”
The U.S. Department of the Interior used the release of the report as a stepping stone to announce that it is partnering with states to designate two Interior-operated post-secondary tribal education institutions – Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in New Mexico – as voter registration agencies under the National Voter Registration Act.
Both Kansas and New Mexico have been the focus of redistricting efforts that impact Native voters and politicians this year.
“Tribal nations have played a significant role in influencing the contours of American democracy, yet systemic barriers continue to disenfranchise Indigenous people and impede a free and fair electoral process,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “The Interior Department is committed to defending the right to vote, which includes increasing access to voter registration and engaging young people in our democratic system.”
“Today’s announcement helps further the Administration's goals of increasing voter outreach, education, registration and turnout in Indigenous communities. Haskell and SIPI serve as important touchpoints in their respective communities,” added Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland. “Designating these schools as voter registration agencies is an important move that will allow more Native people the opportunity to register to vote.”
Interior officials plan to translate the White House report into six Native languages, including Navajo, Yup’ik, Ojibwe, Cherokee, Lakota and Native Hawaiian.
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