Online tool helps mobilize Native American communities to go out and vote

Despite having been enfranchised in 1924, due to numerous legislative obstacles, many Native Americans living on reservations still can’t participate in the democratic process and elect candidates of their choice.

With less than two months left until the election, two nonprofits have developed a new online resource, called Natives Vote, seeking to mobilize Native American voters.

The website aims to help Native Americans navigate roadblocks to the ballot box, by supplying specific, scrupulous details for registering, voting in person, and voting by mail, in all relevant counties and Indian tribal lands in the US.

Some of the biggest hurdles encountered by Native American voters relate to state-specific issues, such as voter ID laws in North Dakota which ask voters to show a physical piece of identification at the polling place that displays a residential address. This unfairly targets many Native voters who live on reservations and don’t have street addresses but rather use PO boxes.

What’s more, in recent years, states such as Alaska and Arizona have closed polling places on reservations, requiring people to travel hundreds of miles to reach their closest polling place.

Absentee ballots add another layer of complexity, with many states still requiring voter IDs to request mail-in ballots. Some people have to drive up to 70 miles each way to a local post office or PO box, while some states won’t even send ballots to PO boxes.

Natives Vote, which was organized by IllumiNative and the Native Organizers Alliance, goes into county-level detail to alleviate these intricacies and encourage as many Native Americans to vote in the coming election.

As Fast Company explains, online visitors can select their state and find relevant links to their state, county, and tribal information, and to helpful resources to overcome administrative barriers. They show the nearest ballot drop boxes, an easier option for many. In North Dakota, tribal residents can now be assigned an official address if they locate it on a map or describe it to an election administrator so that the state’s page contains PDFs of maps for assistance.

Crystal Echo Hawk, CEO of IlluminNative, notes that while having more Native representatives in Congress is key to safeguarding the voting rights of indigenous people in the long term, the new online tool is extremely useful in the meantime as it has the potential to leverage information as power and send energized voters to the polls.

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