Voting Rights in Indian Country

Dr. Dean Chavers writes today about the lack of voting rights for Indian peoples.

He states that Indians have had to fight to win the right to vote since the returning Indian GIs in WW I.

He states that the National Indian Youth Council (NIYC) found a quarter of a century ago that only 20% of Indians in the Southwest were registered to vote and that the numbers remain true today. Registration drives have only been held in a few places in Indian Country.

He states that a quarter of a century ago there were only about 18 Indian elected state officials but that today there are at least 85.

He discusses the extreme resistance to Indian voting, despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. He recounts that the governor of South Dakota in 1977 promised to pursue both legislation and court actions to stop the enforcement of that law in South Dakota.

South Dakota county registrars only registered new voters in one place—the county seat. When roving registrars were finally allowed on reservations, they immediately found themselves accused of voter fraud.

He also discussed several lawsuits that have been filed to protect Indian voting rights. He stated that there have been 70 cases of Indians suing counties, states, municipalities, and others to gain the right to vote. “It’s like every place demands its own lawsuit. People in power fight very hard to keep Indians from having the right to vote. But they will gladly accept Indians into uniform to fight for the nation. Indians have been over-represented in every war the U. S. has fought since World War One.”

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