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Will Natives Get a Fair Chance to Vote in 2016? Not According to Many Lawsuits

The voting rights of American Indians and Alaska Natives have been eroded or ignored since the United States Supreme Court overturned a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, according to charges in numerous lawsuits brought by tribes throughout Indian country in the battle to protect Native suffrage. A review by ICTMN has found that major litigation is pending all over the electoral map in key voting districts, in which tribes allege that state and local municipalities have imposed a litany of restrictive legislation and tactics aimed at denying Indian voters full access to the electoral process.


“The reality is that preclearance was necessary in some jurisdictions that have historically been bad actors,” said Troy Eid, co-chairman of the American Indian Law Practice at Greenberg Traurig law firm. “The fact that preclearance is no longer required of state and local municipalities in regards to their voting procedures was going to lead to this kind of litigation to ensure the voting rights of Indian people.”

Eid, who is the former chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, points to two recent lawsuits by the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, which is the largest county in Utah. In 2012, the tribesued the countyin federal court over the “mal-apportionment” of election districts which favored the white minority. Notably, Utah was one of the last states in the country to legally allow Indian voting in 1957 after a bitter legal fight that went to the Supreme Court.

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