Sometimes progress is slow. That much is clear when you consider Native Americans could not vote in New Mexico until 1948. That’s less than 70 years ago. Natives have faced an uphill battle when it comes to gaining access to the voting booth since the dawn of New Mexico’s statehood. Written in 1912, the state’s Constitution didn’t merely fail to provide voting rights to Native Americans — it explicitly prohibited them. Today Native Americans have the right to vote, but the historical barriers to voting have left a lasting imprint, as evidenced by the fact that voter turnout among Native American populations is typically lower than it is for the rest of the electorate.
There are many reasons for the low turnout numbers. For starters, there is a lack of voter registration opportunities in tribal communities. There has been a lack of commitment to educating Native American voters that directly diminishes their willingness to participate in the electoral process. The list goes on and on. But that’s all about to change.
New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver recently convened her Native American Voting Task Force. The goal of the Native American Voting Task Force is to boost voter registration, education and election participation in tribal communities throughout the state.