Native Voting Rights Resources

Voting is among the best tools you have to participate in the government decisions that affect your community and shape your everyday life.  But just having the right to vote isn’t especially useful if you don’t have a meaningful opportunity to vote.  Too many Native people today still encounter enormous difficulties in registering to vote and in casting their ballots.

As you probably know, one of the biggest obstacles Native voters face is that their nearest voter registration office, polling place, or ballot drop-box is simply too far away.  In each state, local officials decide where to place these services and how many to offer.  Counties that overlap with reservations often neglect or out-right refuse to provide voter services in those Native communities. 

Pondera County in Montana, for example, denied the Blackfeet Nation’s timely request for a polling place on its reservation in advance of the 2020 election.  Blackfeet Nation—represented by the Native American Rights Fund—filed suit against the county.  Just a few days later, Pondera County agreed to establish a satellite office on the Blackfeet reservation.  Tribes and tribal members have overcome similar refusals by counties and local officials in Arizona, Nevada, and elsewhere.

photo of person silhouetted with fist raised

There are actions that voters on reservations can take to counteract these discriminatory policies.  If your Native American community needs assistance or information concerning voter registration, polling place locations, absentee voting or vote-by-mail, please contact us at vote@narf.org.  Please also check back here as we add state-specific resources and toolkits.




Flyer: Native Americans Depend on Ballot Collection

Across Indian Country, houses are not marked with an address, mail is not delivered to homes, and a trip to the post office can take hours. Therefore, thousands of Alaska Native and American Indian voters, especially tribal elders, rely on good faith assistance to vote. This assistance includes ballot collection.

This one-page flyer that helps explain why ballot collection is essential in so many Native American communities and why attempts to regulate ballot collection systemically target Native voters.




Flyer: Everyone Should Feel Safe While Voting

Screenshot of voter intimidation guide

Voter intimidation is not common and is prohibited under federal and state law. Knowing your rights and having a voting plan can help combat any attempt at voter intimidation.

This two-page flyer explains what voter intimidation is and what to do if you encounter it.




State-specific voter action toolkits:
(AZ, MI, MN, MT, NV, WI):

Voter Action Toolkit Cover Image

 


Additional Actions for Tribal Communities:

  • Issue tribal voter guides with information on how the council will vote. Put the guide on tribe’s website, newsletter, polling places. One way to do this is to include a sample ballot with the name “Tribal Council” filled in.
  • Make voter registration forms available at all points-of-contact with the tribal government. 
  • Contact your Secretary of State and identify polling locations on or near your reservations. Let your community know where those polling locations are.
  • If you have the resources, engage in an advertising campaign encouraging people to vote.
  • Make sure that individuals have the information and resources to get the voter identification that they need.
  • Hold an election day party near polling locations. Be sure to invite voters and non-voters because it is illegal to pay people to vote!
  • If you have the resources, provide rides/shuttles to the polls.
  • Issue resolutions encouraging tribal citizens to vote.
  • Encourage young people to encourage older people to vote. Youth-led movements are very effective. Encourage high school students to talk to their families about the importance of voting.
  • Reach out to county and state officials to begin a conversation about polling locations.
  • Request polling locations and drop-boxes in your community. Advertise where any new polling locations will be.

If you are in a vote-by-mail state:

  • Request a pick-up and drop-off location on your reservation.
  • Because many individuals on reservations lack their own mailing address, request that a tribal building can be used as a general pick-up /drop-off location.

Additional Actions for Individuals:

  • Confirm that you are registered with your current address and find out where your polling place will be. Visit your Secretary of State website for more information on where you should vote.
  • Contact your tribal council and request that they create tribal voter guides.
  • Take care of yourself first, then take care of those around you. Make sure you are registered and your registration matches your current address.
  • Hold an election day party near polling locations. Be sure to invite voters and non-voters because it is illegal to pay people to vote!
  • If you have the resources, provide rides/shuttles to the polls.



Raising Awareness About Obstacles at Every Turn

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) released Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans, a comprehensive report outlining the obstacles and barriers Native people face at every turn in the political process.

It is more important than ever that our policymakers, our decision-makers, and Native people understand the barriers, impacts, and history of voting in Indian Country. The information and data from this report can help shine a light on how to eradicate barriers to political participation and help Native people reclaim power through participation.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

It is critical that we help provide as much visibility and awareness around the report as possible. You can help us get this report to more people by:

  • Sharing it on your social media channels.
  • Sending the report to your local elected officials (the full report or our supplementary one-pagers on takeaways and lessons highlighted within the report).
  • Emailing your constituents via your email list or direct, personalized outreach.
  • Posting it on your blog or website to drive website traffic to the report.

NARF also is recommending that tribes and states work together to enact the policy changes outlined in the report and supplementary one-pagers.

ASSETS

Report Website

https://vote.narf.org/obstacles-at-every-turn/

Vote.Narf.org

Narf.org

Social Media Handles

Facebook.com/NativeAmericanRightsFund/

Twitter.com/NDNrights

Hashtags

#NativeVote #NativeTwitter #WeAreStillHere

> DOWNLOAD SHAREABLE GRAPHICS HERE <

SAMPLE CONTENT

The following is content to help support you in your efforts to bring attention to this report. Please feel free to personalize it to your organization’s brand voice and style.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook

  • Our vote is our voice. Although Native people have faced countless barriers to participating in the political process, we find hope in this new report issued by the [TAG] Native American Rights Fund and their analysis of the way forward.
  • Native voters have faced obstacle after obstacle when it comes to political participation. The [TAG] Native American Rights Fund new report, Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans, breaks down the evidence. Read, listen, and learn what we must do to move forward.
  • This analysis of the obstacles Native voters have faced for generations by the [TAG] Native American Rights Fund is both heartbreaking and heartening. It is imperative we pass the Native American Voting Rights Act and register the nearly 1.5M eligible Native voters who aren’t yet registered. Our vote is our voice this November.

  • Simply put: the first people on the land should not be the last to vote.
  • Must-read! Native American voters have the potential to become potent political forces in 2020, yet only 66 percent of the eligible Native American voting population is registered to vote. We must start getting out the #NativeVote now!
  • A million vote opportunity! Native American voters could become potent political forces in 2020 with over 1.5M eligible Native American voters (18+) who are not registered. Get registered, get out the #NativeVote!

Twitter

  • Native voters have faced barriers for generations—from registering to vote to getting votes counted. @NDNRights breaks it down in this new report. Read now! #NativeVote #WeAreStillHere.

  • Difficulties in voting—the very foundation of democracy—are not new for Native Americans. But just as it is not new, this problem is also not unsolvable. This new report by @NDNRights shows the impacts and the opportunities for the #NativeVote.

  • Simply put: the first people on the land should not be the last to vote. This new report by @NDNRights shows the impacts and the opportunities for the #NativeVote.

STAND-OUT QUOTES FROM THE REPORT

  • “[A]s a Native person, I wish I had more of a connection to who these candidates are. When I want to find out about them, I don’t get any responses from them. I don’t know if it’s because I’m Native or maybe they think I am not important at all.”
  • In other places, law enforcement is used to discourage voting, such as when a polling location was placed inside a Sheriff’s office in Keshena, Wisconsin. As one resident said, “You have people that are trying to turn out to vote that they see a police car there and immediately they are like…[d]id I pay that fine? I’m not going to vote because I don’t want to risk going to jail.”
  • In the United States, power is available through participatory democracy. If Native Americans can engage fully in the political system—free from the barriers that currently obstruct them—they can reclaim power and participate in America in a way that is fair and just.
  • Simply put: the first people on the land should not be the last to vote.
  • Community activists advocate for a place “of my own culture, [because] if there is a trusted community member, a leader, I will take the time to listen to them … if I see a trusted, familiar face that’s talking about [elections], I’m definitely going to take the time to listen to what they have to say.”                                                  

EMAIL

Newsletter – 40 words

  • Native Americans have faced barriers to political participation for generations—from registering to vote to getting votes counted. The Native American Rights Fund breaks down the obstacles and the opportunities in their new report. Read it, today!

Long-Form – 130 words

Difficulties in voting—the very foundation of democracy—are not new for Native Americans. It is part of the legacy of genocide and racism the continent’s first peoples have fought for more than 500 years. American Indians or Native Americans have only been recognized as citizens for less than a century.

But just as it is not new, the problem is also not unsolvable. Eradicating barriers to political participation for Native Americans would improve:

  • Socio-economic status.
  • Self-determination.
  • Land rights.
  • Water rights.
  • Health care.

Simply put: The first people on the land should not be the last to vote. Discover and learn about the impacts and opportunities in this new report by the Native American Rights Fund, Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans. https://vote.narf.org/obstacles-at-every-turn/

WEBSITE

Feature – Home page or interior page

Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans. Published by Native American Rights Fund, this report is based on more than 120 witnesses who testified from dozens of tribes across the Midwest, Southwest, West Coast, and Alaska. Read more …

Blog

Headline: Native American Voters face many challenges to political participation

The Native American Rights Fund and the Native American Voting Rights Coalition released Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans, [https://vote.narf.org/obstacles-at-every-turn/] a report highlighting barriers American Indian and Alaska Native communities face in the voting process, from registration, to casting votes, to ensuring votes are counted.

The report, based in part on nine public hearings held across the United States and more than 120 witnesses from dozens of tribes across the country, comes as many states reconsider operations for the 2020 elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including vote-by-mail options.

“The first people on the land should not be the last to vote,” said Jacqueline De León, NARF staff attorney. “The redemption of America is that power is available, if Native Americans can engage fully in the political system—free from the barriers that currently obstruct them—they can reclaim power and participate in America in a way that is fair and just.”

The Native vote is determinative in many states and congressional districts, including in the Dakotas, Alaska, and the Southwest. Yet current voting systems often depress Native turnout.

Across nearly 200 pages, the report lays out in detail dozens of barriers, including geographic isolation, voter ID requirements, poor funding for voting in Native communities, and ballot collection bans. But within it, there is a clear pathway to how to improve political participation. We need:

  • Congress to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act.
  • States to adequately fund election activities, like voter registration for Native Americans.
  • Local jurisdictions to consult with tribes regarding locations of polling places.
  • Outreach by local election officials to Native communities to recruit Native American community members to work as poll workers and election officials.

“Native American voters have the potential to decide elections,” De Leon said.Only 66 percent of the known eligible Native American voting population is registered to vote, meaning there are over 1,000,000 potential Native votes unaccounted for.”

Eradicating barriers to political participation for Native Americans will improve socio-economic status, self-determination, land rights, water rights, and health care. We encourage you to spend this time as we stay healthy and indoors to learn about the historic lessons and systemic changes that face us, and recognize the importance of ensuring Every Native Vote Counts.

Learn more and read Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native Americans at https://vote.narf.org/obstacles-at-every-turn/. Share it with your friends, fellow tribal members, family, and colleagues. Call on your congress people to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act.