On October 5, 2021, the Senate introduced a modified John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4), which now incorporates the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA) as part of the bill.
Congress must pass S.4 with NAVRA provisions to protect Native voting rights
The NAVRA portion of the proposed John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act (S.4) provides a customized approach for the distinctive needs of Native American voters on tribal lands, and it is based on tribes’ unique legal status under federal law and intended to address the barriers to Native voting described above. The included NAVRA components also complement the protective measures set forth in the For the People Act (H.R. 1).
The Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021 (NAVRA) was introduced in the Senate on August 10, 2021, and in the House on August 13, 2021. The United States has a trust responsibility to enact voting rights legislation to protect the constitutionally guaranteed right of Native Americans to vote. Despite the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924 and the Nationality Act in 1940, Native American voters continue to face unique challenges when exercising their right to vote, including, but not limited to, the adverse effects of voter suppression, partisan gerrymandering, disparate treatment, and discriminatory tactics.
Tellingly, in voting rights litigation, Native Americans have won an astounding 90+% of the cases they have brought. Federal legislation is sorely needed to establish baseline, consistent standards for voting in Indian Country, particularly given that Native Americans continue to incur costly legal fees to defend their right to franchise from state and county laws and practices that seek to disenfranchise Native American voters.
In order to protect the right to vote on Indian lands, any legislation passed must address the distinct issues confronting Native American voters, including:
- Geographic isolation, often with lack of reliable transportation and poor access to distant polling and registration locations;
- Non-traditional mailing addresses, overcrowded housing, homelessness, and housing instability;
- Lack of residential mail delivery and limited access to post offices;
- Lack of access to affordable and reliable broadband service;
- Native language translation needs, including non-written, during voting process;
- Strong socioeconomic challenges, such as poverty and unemployment;
- Historic and ongoing mistrust of state and local governments.
Related Legislative Hearings:
Restoring the Voting Rights Act: Protecting the Native American and Alaska Native Vote. Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Subcommittee on the Constitution. Wednesday, October 20, 2021.
Oversight Hearing on “Voting Matters in Native Communities.” Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Wednesday, October 27, 2021.
News About NAVRA:
- A Voice at the Ballot Box: A Broken System Leaves the American Indian without a Strong Voice in Elections (9/14/21) Lycia Maddocks of Thunderbird Strategic, LLC, interview with NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León for the American Indian Advocacy “Strengthening Tribal Sovereignty” podcast series
Support for NAVRA
NARF joined multiple tribal organizations and civil rights organizations in their strong endorsement of the Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021.
Letter of support signatories included:
- Native American Rights Fund
- National Congress of American Indians
- Inter Tribal Association of Arizona
- Alaska Federation of Natives
- Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians
- Coalition of Large Tribes
- Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes
- United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund
- Advance Native Political Leadership
- California Native Vote Project
- Four Directions
- Las Vegas Indian Center
- National Indian Education Association
- NDN Collective
- New Mexico Native Vote
- North Dakota Native Vote
- Sacred Pipe Resource Center
- Tribal Minds, Inc.
- United Natives
- American Civil Liberties Union
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
- Brennan Center for Justice
- Campaign Legal Center
- Fair Elections Center
- Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
- NAACP (LDF)
- National Disability Rights Network
- Southern Coalition for Social Justice