ACLU Report Finds Continuing and Pervasive Voting Rights Violations in Indian Country

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Maria Archuleta, (212) 519-7808 or 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ACLU Report Finds Continuing and Pervasive Voting Rights Violations in Indian Country

Report Provides Historical Overview of American Indian Struggle for Access to the Polls

ATLANTA - American
Indians continue to face discriminatory policies and actions that deny
them their constitutional right to vote, according to a new report
by the American Civil Liberties Union. The report provides a historical
overview of systemic discrimination against American Indians limiting
their ability to participate in local, state and national elections and
highlights ACLU litigation challenging unlawful election practices on
behalf of Indians in five western states: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska,
South Dakota and Wyoming.

"Though the movement for equal
rights has led to dramatic gains for Indian voters and transformed
elected bodies that serve Indian communities, much work remains," said
Laughlin McDonald, Director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project and one
of the principal authors of the report. "Well into the 20th century,
American Indians' status as U.S. citizens was questioned across the
U.S., and they continue to struggle against ongoing disfranchisement
and discriminatory election practices that prevent them from
participating equally in the political process."

Indian voters have faced the most
extreme barriers to voting in this country and were denied the right to
vote longer than any other community in the U.S. The report outlines
still existing obstacles to Indian voting, including electoral systems
that dilute Indian voting strength; discriminatory voter registration
procedures; onerous voter identification requirements; lack of language
assistance at the polls; and noncompliance with the Voting Rights Act.
The report analyzes the history of these policies and others, including
the refusal to recognize Indians as U.S. citizens.

The landmark Voting Rights Act of
1965 played a central role in tearing down barriers to American Indian
political participation, particularly Sections Two and Five, which
prohibit voting policies and procedures that deprive minorities of
equal opportunity in the political process and require certain
jurisdictions to "preclear" any changes in voting processes. The report
highlights ACLU litigation that relied on the Act to successfully
challenge a variety of discriminatory electoral systems and policies.

The report also offers
recommendations on voter education, enhanced registration efforts and
assistance, fair election systems, redistricting that does not dilute
Indian voting strength and compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

"Every American deserves an equal
voice in the political process," said McDonald. "The effects of
discrimination against Indians continue and so must the fight for the
fundamental right to vote. Compliance with the Voting Rights Act is not
optional."

In addition to McDonald, the
report's authors include Nancy Abudu, Meredith Bell-Platts, Neil
Bradley, Donna Matern, Fred McBride, Katie O'Connor, Bryan Sells and
Brian Sutherland of the ACLU Voting Rights Project.

The report can be found at: www.aclu.org/votingrights/minority/41203pub20090930.html

###

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

More in: