End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund hosted a virtual town hall meeting with LAV Action Fund President Tiffany Muller, Sen. Tom Udall, Rep. Deb Haaland, and NAVA Education Project Executive Director Ahtza Dawn Chavez to discuss the steps states and Congress must take to protect the voting rights of members of Native American communities.
“As states and election administrators look at solutions to protect voting during the COVID-19 crisis, we need to make sure the voices of tribal communities are heard and that they have the resources they need to protect their right to vote now and in the future,” said Tiffany Muller, president of End Citizens United // Let America Vote Action Fund.
“My grandfather, Levi Udall, serving as Chief Justice on the Arizona Supreme Court, ruled in 1948 that Native Americans living on reservations had the right to vote. In his words, ‘To deny the right to vote… is to do violence to the principles of freedom and equality.’ Today, it’s clear that having the right to vote and actually being able to exercise that right are two different things, and to this day, Native Americans face unique obstacles to exercising that right. From traveling hundreds of miles to cast their votes, to strict voter ID laws, to exclusive vote-by-mails systems, Native voters still face too many barriers to exercising their democratic right. During the most important election in our lifetime, it is more important than ever that everyone can cast their vote, and I will keep fighting alongside Congresswoman Haaland to pass the Native American Voting Rights Act and protect this fundamental right,” said Sen. Tom Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.
“Because of the sacrifices that our families have made to give us better lives, it is our responsibility to bring full representation from Indian Country to reshape our story and this is a duty that falls on everyone. Everyone who is a part of the indigenous community has the opportunity to show the country that our people are still here with the upcoming 2020 presidential election and Census count. Every indigenous vote matters, and every indigenous voice matters,” said Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM).
“Native Americans face obstacles at every turn in the political process. We have to find the solutions to these barriers, continue to register our relatives, and provide greater access to ensure our communities’ right to vote is protected and supported. Our political representation locally and nationally is at stake!” said Ahtza Dawn Chavez, Executive Director of the NAVA Education Project.
Voter suppression in Native communities takes many forms, from strict voter ID laws to distant and inadequate polling and registration sites. As states and election administrators work toward safe solutions for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, Udall and Haaland discussed the need to make sure Native Americans have full access to the ballot box.
Sen. Udall and Rep Haaland led the bicameral introduction of the Native American Voting Rights Act, legislation that would provide the necessary resources and oversight to ensure Native Americans and Alaska Natives have equal access to the electoral process. Udall is also a lead sponsor of the For The People Act, sweeping legislation that would increase the ease and accessibility of voting for every American. Haaland’s Same Day Voter Registration Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the For the People Act.