Indigenous Voting Rights Do Not Exist

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Highly publicized gubernatorial races those in Georgia between Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) and former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) have finally shed light on voter suppression that disproportionately affects minority populations. It was uncovered that a whopping 70% of Georgia’s voters who were on hold were African Americans. However, systematic marginalization of this magnitude is nothing new and has been operating for decades since people of color were given the right to vote in the first place (supposedly, of course). One population that most people ignore in their calculations is Indigenous people.

Native Americans were some of the last people to gain the right to vote in 1924 and could not vote in some states until 1948. Even more problematic are the ways in which states like North Dakota enact “Voter-ID laws” that are designed to exclude Indigenous communities like those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation. Under these laws, the state requires specific IDs tied to street addresses. This is inherently exclusionary towards natives living on “Indian Reservations” who are not given street addresses in the first place and whose P.O. boxes do not qualify for those IDs.

In October, the Supreme Court declined to overturn the controversial law, cementing Native American disenfranchisement for another Midterms cycle.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was supposed to alleviate some of these unreasonable bureaucratic procedures for African American and Native voters, but recent court cases have undermined any efficacy that it may have had. Court decisions such as Shelby Country v Holder argued that the Act’s formula was out of time and intended to fix “decades-old problems” like racism. Clearly, those issues still exist and the erosion of proper precedents aggravate those preexisting structural inequalities even further.

The public failed to confront the blatantly racist proceedings that propped up the winner of Georgia’s gubernatorial race, but perhaps the next election season will be one less blinded by political ties and more collective awareness.