Senate Committees meet with tribal leaders to discuss voter access and resources

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Contact: Jared King
Communications Director
202-682-7390

For Immediate Release

Senate Committees meet with tribal leaders to discuss voter access and resources

WASHINGTON— On July 17, The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Senate Rules Committee held a joint roundtable on the discussion of voting rights, access, and barriers in Indian County. The focus of the discussion was possible solutions and efforts to ensure all Native Americans have equal access to federal and state voting. Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Vice Chairman Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Senate Rules Committee Ranking Member Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) led the roundtable. Additionally, Sens. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) also joined the roundtable discussion.

Jackson Brossy, Executive Director of the Navajo Nation Washington Office, advocated on behalf of the Navajo Nation, for new laws and more resources to ensure all Navajo members have the opportunity and access to voting in state and federal elections.

In his opening statement Brossy said, “These barriers include the rural and traditional addresses of our citizens, jurisdictional issues with mailing addressing that bar individuals from voting, language, and translation barriers, and blatant discrimination through gerrymandering.” 

The other witnesses included New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, President of National Congress of American Indians Jefferson Keel, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives Julie Kitka, Wampanoag Tribe Chairwomen Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Native American Rights Fund Attorney Jacqueline de Leon, and Native American Voting Rights Coalition Counsel Jim Tucker.

The Navajo Nation addressed possible solutions to increase early access to voting in Indian County. The suggestions include an increased number of early polling sites with extended hours, state acceptance of Tribal ID cards as a mean of identification, and return postage fees on mailed ballots. Also suggested was assistance from the committee to alleviate jurisdictional issues that inhibit wide broadband access to voters.

Brossy who spoke for Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye also stated, “We request the U.S. Department of Justice review any polling closures attributed to compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is designed to help our communities and should not be used perversely as a weapon to hinder our people’s access to voting. Strict ADA compliance is costly and county resistance coupled with underfunding creates unreasonable vote denial in Indian Country. There are already too few polling locations on the Navajo Nation – if counties remove any more, they will be preventing our people from voting.”

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