May 26, 2015 –
WASHINGTON – Today the Department of Justice proposed legislation that would require states or localities whose territory includes part or all of an Indian reservation, an Alaska Native village, or other tribal lands to locate at least one polling place in a venue selected by the tribal government.
“The Department of Justice is deeply committed to ensuring that every eligible individual is able to exercise his or her fundamental right to vote,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “That’s why, today, I am calling on Congress to help remove the significant and unnecessary barriers that for too long have confronted American Indians and Alaska Natives attempting to cast their ballots. The legislation we recommend today will make this nation stronger by extending meaningful voting opportunities to native populations, by encouraging full participation in our democratic institutions, and by bringing us closer to our most cherished ideals.”
“As citizens of a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and equality, Native Americans have faced unacceptable barriers to participating in the franchise, a situation aggravated by a history of discrimination, poverty and — significantly — great distances from polling places,” said Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery. “In spite of many reforms made possible by the Voting Rights Act and other measures, voting rates among Native Americans remain disproportionately low. The legislation proposed today would address this unacceptable gap and we look forward to working with Congress to see it enacted.”
American Indians and Alaska Natives have faced significant obstacles that have prevented them from enjoying equal access to polling places and equal opportunities to cast a ballot. In addition to suffering from a long history of discrimination, the distance many American Indian and Alaska Native citizens must travel to reach a polling place presents a substantial and ongoing barrier to full voter participation. Following formal consultations with Indian tribes, the Department of Justice believes that there is a pressing need for federal legislation to ensure equal access to voting by Native American voters.
Today, the Department of Justice sent a letter to Congress with a legislative proposal, which would ensure that American Indian and Alaska Natives have access to at least one polling place in their communities to cast their ballots and require a number of additional obligations to ensure parity with other polling places.