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APRN: Federal judge opens trial into Native languages at polls

Filed Under: Law | Politics
More on: alaska, alaska native, languages, voting rights

An eight-day trial opened into the use of Native languages in election materials in Alaska:
Toyukuk v. Treadwell was brought by two Alaska Native voters, along with two tribal councils. Natalie Landreth, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund, is arguing the case. She says there’s a “huge amount” of voting information available to people who speak English, Spanish, and Tagalog, compared to the amount of materials for speakers of Yup’ik and Gwich’in. Landreth says the disparity amounts to discrimination.

“It’s not an impossible task. You hear that it’s more complicated than the defendants would like it to be, but it’s not impossible. It’s very practical,” says Landreth. “They’re choosing not to do it.”

The state is defending against that charge, arguing that the Division of Elections does want Native voters to be enfranchised but there are unique obstacles to serving some populations in the state. Assistant Attorney General Libby Bakalar notes there are only 300 speakers of Gwich’in who are capable of doing translating work for the state, and until recently the state had to clear many of its policies with the Federal Department of Justice.

Get the Story:
Native Voting Rights Case Kicks Off (Alaska Public Radio Network 6/23)

Also Today:
Tribal leaders welcome Holder's voting access plan (AP 6/23

Related Stories:
Julie Kitka: Alaska must protect voting rights of Native people (06/12)
DOJ to consult tribes about polling locations in Indian Country (6/10)
Judge tells Alaska to offer voting material in Native languages (6/5)

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