Voting Challenges Faced by Native Americans

8.16.16 Native Voting - stock photo -13716821-vote-image-copyright---twThere is no doubt that this Presidential election is perhaps one of the most important decisions Americans are going to make this year. With the Native American population growing, individuals must be willing to register, educate themselves on the candidates and be prepared to vote this November.

However, there are challenges exclusively facing Native Americans in regards to voting laws, such as North Dakota’s new voter ID law, which requires a street address on a voter’s identification card – something old tribal IDs do not print. It’s believed that these new restrictions are part of a much broader effort by one political party to reduce turnout among Native American voters on Election Day. In fact, North Dakota is one of 17 states that have new voting restrictions in place since the last Presidential election.

Tribal members in those states are suing in order to change the laws – five federal lawsuits involving Native Americans have been filed, including three this year alone. As Americans, it’s important for all of us to have a voice, and in this case, to recognize that some of the tribes facing voting issues are in key counties where increased voter turnout has tipped the balance in recent congressional races.

It’s important we all have a voice and particularly important for the Native voice to be heard. Many Native American Elders encourage tribal members to vote for change. As of right now, more than 1 million Native Americans who are eligible to vote are unregistered voters.

The National Congress of American Indians and Native Vote 2016 are educating Native voters about the candidates and ballot measures – especially the issues central to Indian country and the need to develop Native policy platforms. Native Vote 2016 will be preparing materials to aid in these efforts, working with regional organizations and other non-profits to increase voter awareness and education efforts.

In the meantime, open the door for your voices be heard. Register to vote, encourage your friends and family to do the same.

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