Native Americans have been “systematically denied access to fair representation” as a result of persistent barriers to voting, advocates and tribal leaders told a Senate roundtable Tuesday. Witnesses told the informal meeting of senators from the Indian Affairs and Rules committees that tribal voters face a range of challenges, from language barriers, to restrictions with mail-in ballots and lack of access to voting locations. Many of those issues are rooted in “blatant discrimination,” one speaker said. “We should not have to talk about blatant discrimination,” said Jackson Brossy, the executive director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office. “Here we are in 2018. We still face many, many unacceptable barriers to voting for Navajo people.”
Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, said those barriers represent what he called an “insidious” effort to suppress the Native vote more than 50 years after passage of the Voting Rights Act.
“To this day … many states and local jurisdictions have found new, more insidious ways to impose barriers on Native access to the ballot box,” Udall said, “from voter ID laws to inadequate polling and registration sites, to lack of availability of Native language ballot materials.”