Native American Barriers to Voting

As per usual, while I take many holiday weeks off, I am not taking Columbus Day off. If you’re wondering why, just read this post from the week of Columbus Day last year.

However, from this year on, I’m not just going to post on the week of Columbus Day, but also to post on one or more issues related to indigenous people (since, you know, that was the group most hurt by Columbus and others coming).

At this point, you’re probably asking this: “What are you going to post this year, Brendan?”

This year, given the upcoming midterm election, I think it’s important to write a post about an injustice many of us are not aware of: the fact that many Native Americans face barriers to voting.

It may be surprising to hear that many Native Americans face barriers to voting, especially considering the fact that Native Americans technically have the right to vote. However, just because a group of people has the right to vote doesn’t mean that they are given the resources to vote easily.

Take, for example, the barriers to voting that many Native Americans face in elections. The quantity of barriers is staggering: long distances to voting places, less time for early voting than other groups, restrictive voter-identification regulations, a lack of accommodations for tribal languages at polling places, and many more. The Native American Voting Rights Coalition listed further voting barriers faced by Native Americans in several states, such as registration problems caused by non-traditional addresses, a lack of voter-registration drives in Native American communities, and a lack of Internet access (which makes online voter registration impossible in practice even if it exists in theory). There are even more barriers that Native Americans face to voting, but these are just a few.

If your head is spinning at this point from the massive list of voting restrictions that Native Americans face, don’t feel badly—honestly, I felt that way, too, while drafting this post. If anything, be glad that you’re recognizing the extent of voting restrictions against Native Americans in 2018.

However, we must go further, as individuals, than simply recognizing how the system is stacked against Native Americans, as far as voting is concerned. Instead, we must consider what, if anything, our candidates say about voting rights for all individuals, including Native Americans. While I will not be one to endorse candidates on this blog, what I will say is that anyone who does not support the further enfranchisement of all individuals at the voting booth, including the enfranchisement of Native Americans, does not deserve anyone’s vote.

Update as of October 16, 2018: For the first time ever, I needed to update a blog post soon after writing one. That is because yet another barrier has been added for some Native Americans. Namely, for people in North Dakota, you must have an ID with a current street address in order to vote. P.O. boxes are not acceptable. This disproportionately affects Native Americans, as many Native American reservations lack physical street addresses (plus many homeless Native Americans use P.O. boxes, not physical street addresses). Therefore, North Dakota has created, and the Supreme Court has refused to do anything about, yet another barrier to voting that Native Americans in that state will face. I want to give a “thank you” to Scottie at Scotties Toy Box for bringing my attention to this issue, and to National Public Radio’s article on the topic and many others for reporting on this.

15 Replies to “Native American Barriers to Voting”

  1. Reblogged this on Scotties Toy Box and commented:
    Thank you for posting this information. I have been told by several Native Americans about horrific troubles they have had just trying to vote. Bigotry against the Native Americans is something they have battled for a very long time. We as a nation need to fight against any attempt to restrict voting rights as voting is part of a healthy democracy. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  2. You’re welcome. I’ve heard a little bit about the barriers that many Native Americans face to voting, but doing research for this piece really opened my own eyes to just how prevalent this problem is.

    It would also be interesting to see what sort of solutions, if any, have been proposed at the state or federal level (and how those potential solutions worked in practice). But that’s a subject for a longer scholarly piece, maybe.

    Thanks for sharing my post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Isn’t it strange that the people the courts actually disenfranchised are actually the people with most right to the Country. All races in the U.S. should be given a fair and equal right to vote and not have restrictions placed against hem because they may vote a certain way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s actually not strange at all, sadly. The Supreme Court in the past has been known to place barriers to voting. This was many decades ago, but the courts did once uphold things like literacy tests and poll taxes, for example. The Supreme Court is often not a beacon for civil rights, even though all should have equal rights, as you said.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi Brendan,
        It’s happening all over and those affected can do little to defend their rights that were constitutionally protected. I understand why state rights and discrimination go hand in hand and why state rights are popular with Republicans. Each state can implement laws that subvert the constitutional rights of “undesirable citizens.” The list of “undesirables” used to consist of only black people, now it includes Native Americans, immigrants, Muslims, people with disabilities and so on.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yep. I have never heard of an argument for states’ rights that has promoted justice. Though I don’t know…maybe I’m forgetting something. Regardless, what’s happening here is despicable and anyone who suppresses voters should be ashamed of themselves.


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