A voting rights mural in Albuquerque, New Mexico, features a tribal citizen. Native Americans faced obstacles at the polls in New Mexico until a landmark court victory in 1948. Photo: David Seibold

Native American Voting Rights Coalition convenes second hearing in Wisconsin

The Native American Voting Rights Coalition is identifying and documenting obstacles faced by Native voters.

While Native Americans were recognized as citizens of the United States in 1924, many were kept from the polls for decades. Even today, tribal citizens often turn to the courts when faced by efforts to restrict one of their most fundamental rights.

In hopes of addressing the situation, a diverse coalition of organizations has been convening hearings to collect stories of voter suppression and intimidation. The first took place last month in North Dakota, a state where tribal citizens fought a restrictive voter identification law ahead of last year's heated presidential election.

“The state passed the strictest voter identification law in the country on the basis that they wanted to prevent voter fraud, but over the course of the case the state admitted there had never been a single case of fraud in North Dakota," "Matt Campbell, a staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said of the lawsuit he handled. "It’s a myth, one designed to keep Native Americans and the elderly from voting.”

The coalition, which was initiated by NARF in 2015, will be holding its second hearing in Wisconsin on Monday. It coincides with the annual convention of the National Congress of American Indians, another member of the coalition.

Other members include Four Directions, an organization that has helped tribal citizens with voting rights victories in South Dakota and Nevada. The Western Native Voice, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and the Fair Elections Legal Network are also a part of the effort.

To participate in the October 16 hearing or to submit testimony, contact the Native American Voting Rights Coalition at vote@narf.org.

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