Native Americans Could Help Swing Arizona—But Many Struggle to Cast Their Ballot

Experts say the difference in Arizona’s votes between the two presidential candidates could be far less than the roughly 309,000 American Indians and Alaskan Natives who make up about 6% of the state’s voting-age population, according to NCAI. “Native Americans certainly have the potential to swing Arizona,” De León says.

Native Americans in Arizona and across the country face unique challenges to accessing the ballot, particularly when it comes to vote-by-mail, which has gained popularity nationwide as many Americans are wary about the health risks of voting in-person during a pandemic. Many homes on reservations don’t have formal addresses where they can receive mail, according to a June 2020 report from the Native American Right Fund (NARF). Rural post offices can be far away from where people live, and involve their own delays in receiving mail on time because of “complicated mail routing,” the report states. “As states are moving to vote-by-mail, Native Americans are getting left out of that conversation,” says Jacqueline De León, a NARF staff attorney.

All of those potential roadblocks tap into a sense of disenfranchisement in the community that goes back nearly a century. Congress’ passage of the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 that granted all Native Americans who were born in the U.S. citizenship did not automatically grant the community the right to vote, which was instead governed by state law. It was more than 20 years later, in 1948, when Arizona’s Supreme Court overturned Porter v. Hall, that Native Americans in Arizona could cast a ballot. After that, too, more systemic barriers remained: English literacy tests continued to be required to vote for all U.S. citizens until the 1970s, keeping many Native Americans from the polls. Read full article in Time.

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