In November 2012, former North Dakota attorney general Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, won a hotly-contested race for a seat in the U.S. Senate, a win attributed to the state’s Native American voters. Shortly after that, lawmakers in the majority Republican state passed a tough voter-ID law, making it a lot harder for tribe members to vote. The nonprofit Native American Rights Fund (NARF) sees the new law as racially motivated and has taken North Dakota to court. This year, NARF conducted field hearings across Indian Country to hear testimony on voter suppression in other states. “And what we heard was really disturbing,” said NARF attorney Jacqueline D. De León, a member of the Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico.
The 1965 National Voting Rights Act (NVRA), amended several times, was intended to end discrimination in voting. The law requires states to provide voter registration forms in all public offices.
Tribes are sovereign, which means they have their own officials and voter registration systems to elect them. Many tribe members don’t realize they also need to register for local, state and general elections, because officials rarely conduct voter registration drives on reservations. Activists report challenges when they intervene to help.
Full Article: Native Americans Work to Break Down Barriers to Voting.