With the nationwide attack on voting rights a regular topic of discussions these days, we must not forget that our democracy is strongest when all citizens participate – which is exactly what the National Congress of American Indians reminded us last month when it called for immediate action to empower Native voters.
In the next five months we have a great deal of work to do to ensure that our people are ready for the 2012 election.
Over the last century since securing our rightful place at the ballot box, Native people have remained one of the most disenfranchised group of voters in the United States. Today as a result, two out of every five eligible American Indian and Alaska Native voters are not registered to vote. In 2008 over 1 million eligible Native voters were unregistered. I think that Indian Country should consider this a civic emergency. We should all be concerned; American Indians and Alaska Natives, tribal, and state and federal governments.
Many obstacles – identification laws, purges of voting rolls, poverty, poor educational opportunities, and even US-tribal conflicts – contribute to low rates. NCAI, however, is diligently working to reverse their effect, with new partnerships between NCAI and Rock the Vote and State Voices. NCAI also called upon the US government to provide voter registration at Indian Health Service facilities.
For more information, click here, and check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by PFAW Foundation.