Native Village Youth and Education News
November, 2009  Volume 3

ACLU Report Finds Continuing And Pervasive Voting Rights Violations In Indian Country
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2009/10/01-1

The American Civil Liberties Union says American Indians face unfair policies and actions that deny them their right to vote. A new report provides evidence of this discrimination.  It also highlights ACLU's legal actions against these unlawful election practices in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

"Though the movement for equal rights has led to dramatic gains for Indian voters and transformed elected bodies that serve Indian communities, much work remains," said Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project. "Well into the 20th century, American Indians' status as U.S. citizens was questioned across the U.S., and they continue to struggle against ongoing disfranchisement and discriminatory election practices that prevent them from participating equally in the political process."

Indian voters have faced the most extreme barriers to voting in this country. They were denied the right to vote   longer than any other group in the U.S. The current obstacles to Indian voting include:

Electoral systems that dilute Indian voting strength;
Discriminatory voter registration procedures;
Burdensome voter identification requirements;
Lack of language assistance at the polls;
 Noncompliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 tore down barriers to American Indian political participation. Sections Two and Five of that act prohibit voting policies and procedures that deprive minorities of equal opportunity in the political process. In addition, it says that changes in the voting process must be "pre-cleared." 

ACLU's new report also offers recommendations on voter education, registration and assistance efforts, fair election systems and redistricting.

"Every American deserves an equal voice in the political process," said McDonald. "The effects of discrimination against Indians continue and so must the fight for the fundamental right to vote. Compliance with the Voting Rights Act is not optional."

The report can be found at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/minority/41203pub20090930.html

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