The Native American Vote is Critical – and in Jeopardy this Election
The 2020 presidential election is fast approaching with only 49 days to go. Native Americans represent a critical voting group that has the ability to make the difference between victory and defeat, particularly in swing states such as Arizona.
However, people are stepping away from the polls and opting to vote by mail to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19. We’re facing a historical election where roughly 80 million people will be voting by mail. This will create barriers to voting for Native Americans living in rural reservation communities that those living in urban areas do not face.
With many houses on reservations lacking a “standard” mailing address, getting a ballot delivered is already difficult for many Native voters. Many Native Americans lack access to public transportation and cannot afford the added fuel cost of traveling to vote on Election Day. At the same time, rough and dirt roads on remote reservations can become impassable in early November and deter on-time ballot mailing. Though seemingly simple realities, they all make voting more difficult for Native Americans.
To further complicate this, the U.S. Postal Service recently announced significant budget cuts that could impact voting for millions of Americans, particularly those in rural areas. The budget cuts will cause the mail sorting and delivery process to slow down. Any issues rural Native voters were already facing to voting by mail will be amplified by these cuts.
States have been confronted with hundreds of lawsuits in recent weeks urging the USPS to suspend or revert these changes out of concerns that the cuts will violate voting rights. Individuals living on remote reservations are concerned that these changes could mean their ability to vote is blocked entirely in the 2020 election.
Last week, members of the Navajo Nation asked a federal judge in Arizona to require that the state count all mail-in ballots from voters in reservation communities that are postmarked by November 3rd, even if they are received after Election Day.
As the courts continue to address mail-in ballot concerns, the most important thing you can do is ensure your vote is counted this November. Resources are available for free online if you need more information on when, where and how to vote – and if you’re planning to vote by mail, now is the time to request your absentee ballot.
Now more than ever, Native American voices can champion hope and help shape the quality of life for tribal communities and future generations.