“Martin Luther King said, ‘I have a dream.’ But we Indians didn’t have a dream. We had a reality.”
Ben Black Elk, Oglala Lakota Sioux, 1899-1973.
The Native American Voting Rights Coalition (NAVRC) is a non-partisan alliance of national and grassroots organizations, scholars, and activists advocating for equal access for Native Americans to the political process. The Native American Rights Fund founded the coalition in 2015 to facilitate collaboration among Coalition members and to coordinate efforts at overcoming the many barriers Native Americans face in registering to vote, casting their ballot, and having an equal voice in elections.
NAVRC employs three primary methods to achieve its goal. It educates the public about the unique challenges Native voters face. It works with policy makers and election officials to address those challenges. And, when necessary, NAVRC members may pursue other legal avenues, including litigation, to stop practices that have a discriminatory purpose or effect on Native voters.
To begin its work, the NAVRC needed a more complete understanding of the types of barriers that Native Americans face in trying to access the ballot box. In late spring 2016, the Kellogg Foundation funded the first comprehensive, multi-state study of the problems and challenges facing Native American voters. The survey addressed: 1) voter eligibility, 2) political engagement, 3) registering to vote, 4) voting, and 5) demographic information. Results from that initial survey (see the executive summary and the full survey results) indicate that there is a variety of problems affecting access to the polls, each requiring a different strategy in order to resolve it.
To build upon the survey, in September 2017, NAVRC began holding field hearings across the country. The hearings will create a documentary record of the circumstances surrounding voting in Indian Country, identifying the unique needs and challenges faced by Native voters. Learn more about the field hearings.
Maya Kane, Special Counsel at Maynes, Bradford, Shipp & Scheftel
Bryan Sells, The Law Office of Bryan Sells
Dr. James Tucker, Attorney at Wilson Elser and NARF Pro Bono Voting Rights Counsel