Shawn Bordeaux: Democracy broken for Native voters at state level

South Dakota Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D). Photo by Bernie Hunhoff / Facebook

South Dakota State Rep. Shawn Bordeaux (D), a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, calls for more Native voter participation in state elections:
Democracy in Native communities is working at the tribal level but broken in state elections. Members are registered to vote in tribal elections and participate in the tribal elections process where they know they have a strong voice in shaping their local communities and the laws passed. And tribal members are able to see results—we have firsthand experience calling upon their tribal council members to be heard.

Unfortunately, in state elections too often we do not vote in high numbers and we do not see change at the local level. It is going to take a lot of work to convince people in my district as well as others across reservation communities that state government cares about their concerns. We leave a lot of resources on the table for other districts when we don’t participate in elections.

In 2015, in an effort to limit hurdles between Native Americans and the ballot box, Senators Tester, Franken, Heitkamp, and Udall cosponsored the Native American Voting Rights Act which would increase voter protections and access to the polls for Native Americans. The Native American Voting Rights Act would require each state to establish polling locations on reservations upon request from the tribe, including early voting locations in states that allow votes to be cast prior to Election Day. Additionally, the bill directs state election administrators to mail absentee ballots to the homes of all registered voters if requested by the tribe and establishes tribal IDs as a valid form of identification.

There is an undeniable connection between voter participation and access to resources. I believe that with greater participation we can reverse the condition on many of our reservations where socio-economic and health statistics resemble those for third world counties. Our Black Hills provided the gold that transformed the wealth of the United States. Our votes can be just as powerful.

Get the Story:
Shawn Bordeaux: Push Harder for Native Voting Rights (Indian Country Today 12/16)

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