How Do We Enfranchise Native American Voters?


How does existing election law effect Native American voters? That’s the subject explored in a recently published paper titled, “You Gotta Fight for the Right to Vote: Enfranchising Native American Voters.”

Written by Jeannette Wolfley of the University of New Mexico School of Law, the piece has been posted to the Social Science Resources Center. It will also appear in the for 2015 issue of the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

Here’s a description of the piece from Wolfley as described in the excerpt:

Five decades ago, the Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since its passage, the Voting Right Act has created the opportunity to vote for many racial and language minorities across the country, and has survived many challenges until 2013.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions involving voting rights in its 2012-2013 term. On June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, a divided Supreme Court struck down Section 4 – a key provision of the 1965 Voting Right Act – as unconstitutional. On June 17, 2013, one week before the Shelby County decision, the Court decided another voting rights challenge.

In Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., the court held that the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 preempted Arizona’s requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote.

Certainly, this decision was not as symbolic as Shelby County, but nonetheless is significant for minority voters and voters in general. In the aftermath of Shelby County, many voting rights litigators and scholars are contemplating what the case means for the future of Black and Latino minority voting rights across the country.

To date, however, scholars’ and practitioners’ reaction to and focus on the Shelby County decision has not considered or identified its impact on Indian voters or reservation residents. Accordingly, this Article seeks to fill the void by examining the Shelby County and Inter Tribal Council decisions and provides some insight and effective responses with regard to their impacts on Native American voters across Indian country.

Interested in reading the entire piece? Click here.

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