Washington Governor Signs Native American Voting Rights Act
2020 presidential hopeful Washington Governor Jay Inslee (D) signed a bill Thursday expanding voting services on tribal reservations. The Native American Voting Rights Act legislation requires county officials to establish at least one voting drop box on any tribal reservation if requested by the tribe. The bill also allows tribal members to use tribal ID cards to register to vote and to register using non-traditional addresses, including a narrative description of the location of their residence. Another address option -- for tribal members to use a tribal government building designated for ballot collection as their mailing address -- was also added during the legislative process. “This legislation provides us the opportunity to remove those barriers to be able to call to the Native Americans and tell them they matter,” said state Rep. Debra Lekanoff, the first Native American woman elected to the state legislature. Restrictive voting laws throughout the U.S. often carry a discriminatory effect, either by intent or consequence, for Native communities. Statistics from the National Congress of American Indians show that the turnout rate of American Indian and Alaska Native registered voters is between 5 to 14 percentage points lower than turnout rates of other racial and ethnic groups. On the federal level, civil rights organizations have spearheaded a congressional effort to pass the federal version of Native American Voting Rights Act, which would create more communication channels between DC and Native American tribes, direct states to accept tribal ID cards for voting purposes, and establish a clear pathway for Native communities to request federal election observers. More here.