Native American Leaders Push Against Arizona Voting ID Proposal

By Steve Goldstein, Jaye McAuliffe
Published: Wednesday, October 2, 2019 - 11:51am

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I Voted Sticker
Jackie Hai/KJZZ
An "I Voted" sticker from Arizona's 2018 elections.

On Tuesday, U.S. representatives held a field hearing on voting access in Arizona.

This is one of several remote hearings the House Subcommittee on Elections has held in the wake of changes in regulations under the Voting Rights Act. Previously, states with a history of voting discrimination had to approve changes to voting regulations with the Department of Justice, and Arizona was one of those states.

“Voting by mail is one of the many options available in Arizona," State Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita said at the hearing. "It is easy and convenient to vote in the state of Arizona. If you are not voting, it is because you have chose not to.”

During the 2019 Arizona Legislative session, Sen. Ugenti-Rita sponsored a bill that would require people voting in person at early voting centers to show a valid photo ID. Gov. Ducey signed that bill, but voting rights advocates and tribal leaders testified that voter ID laws present a barrier for rural Native American communities.

"The community’s tribal identification cards do not include addresses," said Stephen Roe Lewis, governor of the Gila River Indian Community. "Also, individuals living on the Pinal County portion of the reservation do not have standard county street addresses, though through no fault of their own."

In-person voters have to present an ID with the address they’re registered to vote under.

Additionally, Navajo Nation president Jonathen Nez testified that there is a lack of access to mail service across the reservation, and when Navajo community members head to vote in-person, they often lack reliable transportation.

"In some parts of the nation, only one in ten families own a vehicle, which further limits transportation options," Nez said. "In addition, if there are tribal elections on the same day as the state and federal elections, an individual may be required to travel two separate locations in two separate communities to cast ballots on election day. This can lead to an individual spending many hours in one day driving and waiting in line to vote."

Also testifying at the hearing was Patty Bohnee, director of the Indian Legal Clinic at ASU. She spoke with The Show about those and other issues that Native communities face.

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