About the NAVRC
In January 2015, NARF proposed an ambitious new project: gathering voting rights advocates, lawyers, civil rights experts, and tribal advocates into one room to discuss current problems with voting in Indian Country and begin to develop solutions to these problems. Previously, individuals and organizations working to protect Native voting rights did so independently, with no coordinated strategy in place. Often, the work was reactive—in response to an immediate threat—rather than proactive or planned in advance of an election. That is what NARF’s project was meant to change. Thus, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition (NAVRC) was formed.
The Native American Voting Rights Coalition is a non-partisan alliance of national and grassroots organizations, scholars, and activists advocating for equal access for Native Americans to the political process. The Native American Rights Fund founded the coalition in 2015 to facilitate collaboration among Coalition members and to coordinate efforts at overcoming the many barriers Native Americans face in registering to vote, casting their ballot, and having an equal voice in elections.
NAVRC employs three primary methods to achieve its goal. It educates the public about the unique challenges Native voters face. It works with policy makers and election officials to address those challenges. And, when necessary, NAVRC members may pursue other legal avenues, including litigation, to stop practices that have a discriminatory purpose or effect on Native voters.
Understanding the Issues
To begin its work, the NAVRC needed a more complete understanding of the types of barriers that Native Americans face in trying to access the ballot box. In late spring 2016, the Kellogg Foundation funded the first comprehensive, multi-state study of the problems and challenges facing Native American voters. The survey addressed: 1) voter eligibility, 2) political engagement, 3) registering to vote, 4) voting, and 5) demographic information. Results from that initial survey indicate that there is a variety of problems affecting access to the polls, each requiring a different strategy in order to resolve it.
To build upon the survey, in September 2017, NAVRC began holding field hearings across the country. The hearings create a documentary record of the circumstances surrounding voting in Indian Country, identifying the unique needs and challenges faced by Native voters.