Today’s Must-Read: “For Native Americans, a ‘Historic Moment’ on the Path to Power at the Ballot Box”

Julie Turkewitz in the NYT:

Fights over indigenous voting rights are playing out in the West and the Midwest, a trend that has the potential to tip tight races in states with large native populations, like Alaska and Arizona, and to influence matters of national importance, like the future of Bears Ears National Monument, a conservation area in this county that is at the center of a fierce debate over public lands.

Today, Native Americans are suing over a new voter identification law in North Dakota, where lawyers say there is not a single driver’s license site on a reservation in a state that requires identification to vote. The outcome of the lawsuit could influence this year’s congressional election, helping to secure or flip the seat of Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat with wide Native American support.

In the battleground state of Nevada, the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiutes won a lawsuit in late 2016 that charged that tribal citizens had to travel as many as 100 miles to vote. The suit forced officials to open new polling stations in tribal areas and spurred nine other tribes to request their own election sites.

And in Alaska, where native people make up a fifth of the population, officials recently rolled out election materials in the Yup’ik, Inupiaq and Gwich’in languages, following federal rulings that found the state had failed to provide materials equivalent to those used by English speakers.

After those changes, turnout in villages rose by as much as 20 percent, increasing the political power of the state’s native residents.

Other native voting cases are proceeding or have been recently settled in Arizona, Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming. And a second case is open in San Juan County, this one challenging the county’s decision to move to an all-mail ballot. Plaintiffs contend this disenfranchises native people who live far from reliable mail service.

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