In 2017 and 2018, the Native American Voting Rights Coalition—founded by the Native American Rights Fund—held nine public hearings to better understand how Native Americans are systemically and culturally kept from fully exercising their franchise. More than 120 witnesses testified from dozens of Tribes across the country.
The final report, Obstacles at Every Turn: Barriers to Political Participation Faced by Native American Voters, was released in June 2020 and provides detailed evidence that Native people face obstacles at every turn in the electoral process: from registering to vote, to casting votes, to having votes counted.
Graphic design for the report provided by Katherine Howell-Kiser. Strategic communications support provided by Pyramid Communications’ Native-led Indian Country Team.
Two updates to the Obstacles report were released in October 2021:
- Download a summary of the report’s findings including recommendations for a way forward>>
- Download a summary of Native American voter impact>>
- Download a summary of obstacles related to registration>>
- Download a summary of obstacles related to vote-by-mail>>
- Download a summary of obstacles related to casting a ballot>>
Webinar: A Conversation on Voting Rights in Indian Country (Sept. 2020)
In this first-of-its-kind online conversation, NARF legal experts Natalie Landreth (Chickasaw) and Jacqueline De León (Isleta Pueblo) discuss the historic struggles of Native people to vote, the legal fights to access the ballot and be represented, and why voices for racial justice are critical to our democracy.
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Raising Awareness About the Obstacles at Every Turn Report
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 about it on your blog or website to drive website traffic to the report.
NARF also is recommending that Tribal Nations and states work together to enact the policy changes outlined in the report and supplementary one-pagers.
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.
- 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!
- 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.”
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.
- Land rights.
- Water rights.
- Health care.
Simply put: The first people of this 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/
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 …
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 NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León. “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.