President Navajo backs bill to protect Native Americans’ voting rights – Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told a Senate panel on Wednesday that special protections are needed to reverse the “very disrespectful” treatment of Native Americans who face extraordinary challenges in the voting process.
Nez joined others in urging a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee to support the Native American Voting Rights Act, which would establish minimum federal requirements for voting on tribal lands, including early voting, voting by correspondence, ballot collection and identification standards.
âThis is not about Democrat or Republican,â Nez said. âIt’s about doing the right thing. “
This includes tackling the many obstacles to voting that are unique to Native Americans, such as the lack of voting locations in reservations, which makes it difficult for them to vote, Nez said.
âTravel to polling stations can be particularly painful,â he said.
But critics at the hearing said The law project goes too far and would open up tribal voting to abuse and fraud.
“I agree that we should vigorously protect the right to vote of every American,” said Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas. “But unfortunately, this bill … would increase electoral fraud rather than combat it.”
Cruz accused Democrats of using the right to vote to cover electoral reforms aimed at “seizing power and ensuring Democrats stay in power for the next 100 years.”
The hearing came less than an hour after Senate Republicans blocked debate on the freedom to vote law on Wednesday, a draft law on voting rights aimed at all Americans that would expand voter registration, increase advance and postal voting, and make Election Day a national holiday, among other measures.
This bill was a light version of the bill passed by the House For the people Law, which Senate Democrats amended in hopes of gaining some Republican support. But the 50 Senate Republicans voted against this Wednesday, denying Democrats the 60 votes needed to end the filibuster and prosecute the bill.
The Native American Voting Rights Act has been presented in August by Senator Ben Ray LujÃ¡n, DN.M., and has 17 co-sponsors, all Democrats. One of those co-sponsors, Senator Alex Padilla, D-Calif, said the you need an invoice to âensure that tribal communities are not denied equal participation in our democratic processâ.
The bill would allow tribes to specify the locations of voter registration sites, ballot boxes and polling stations on reservations and would require states to accept tribal-issued ID cards as valid voting identification. It would also be more difficult for states to cancel polling stations, establish minimum standards for early voting, and require states to allow voters to hand their ballot to someone else for let it deliver it – even in states, like Arizona, which otherwise prohibit such so-called “harvest” ballots.
Sara Frankenstein said the bill is too broad and âremoves control of the elections from the election administrator, for whom he is trained and elected. This raises several legal and practical issues.
Frankenstein, a South Dakota attorney who represents election officials and handles electoral law matters, emphasized the bill’s requirement that Native American voters can have their ballots mailed to a public building because many houses on reserves do not have a mailing address. The fact that hundreds of ballots arrive in a public building – and without a person in charge – can lead to fraud as there is no way of knowing that the ballot was received by the correct owner, a she declared to the audience.
âIt’s a solution looking for a problem,â Frankenstein said.
This was echoed by Wyoming Secretary of State Edward Buchanan, who said the measures would not increase security or confidence in the vote, but would only cast doubt on the electoral process.
âYou can’t have an election that people don’t believe in,â Buchanan said. “Because if they don’t believe the result is fair, you reduce voter turnout.”
He underscored the ballot harvest requirement, which said states “may not allow any limit on the number of voted and sealed mail-in ballots a designated person can return.” This would lead to fraud as there would be no way of knowing that mail ballots were given to a registered voter.
âThere’s no way it won’t happen, and the hard part is you won’t even know it’s happening,â Buchanan said.
But supporters have said that ballot collections, drop boxes and mail ballots solve very real problems on tribal lands.
In the 2018 election, Navajo voters in Arizona had to travel up to 236 miles round trip to participate in the early vote, Nez said. Tribe members may not own a vehicle that will allow them to make this trip on their own, and many may not have the mailing addresses necessary to obtain a mail-in ballot.
Jacqueline De LeÃ³n, staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said the difficulty Indigenous voters face “also communicates to Native Americans that their vote is unwelcome.”
âWhat is communicatedâ¦ is that your vote does not matter and that you are not part of the American system,â she said.
De LeÃ³n said the lack of residential addresses on tribal lands and the requirement for ID in some states are examples of “continued discrimination and government neglect.”
âMany Native Americans live in overcrowded homes that have no address, do not receive mail, and are located on dirt roads that can be impassable in winter November,â De LeÃ³n said.
De LeÃ³n and Nez dismissed fears of fraud raised by critics, saying protections are still enshrined in law and election fraud would still be illegal. Rather, they pointed out the rights that are denied under the current law, which is why the new law is necessary.
âWe have to make sure that the rights of indigenous peoples are protected,â Nez said. âThere should be a responsibility to fight for the rights of indigenous peoples. “