A million American Indians aren’t registered to vote. A million! American Indians who are registered have the worst turn-out at the polls of any ethnic group. This is simultaneously sad and infuriating. It’s also problematic for progressives because the Indian vote can make the difference, has made the difference in some cases, on who sits on county commissions, in state legislatures and, occasionally, in Congress. Indians overwhelmingly vote Democratic.
Jefferson Keel (Chickasaw), the president of the National Congress of American Indians, is pushing voter registration for American Indians in a way never seen before. He wants the largest-ever Native turnout this year at the polls and has joined with Rock the Vote to make that happen. One key element of the campaign is to get the federal government to establish voter registration at Indian Health Service facilities under the provisions of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Among other things, the act requires state governments to allow people to register to vote when they renew their driver’s licenses or apply for social services.
On reservations and in urban centers, the IHS provides members of federally recognized tribes health care and advocacy. It runs 142 hospitals, health centers and 50 health stations on reservations and about 30 urban Indian health projects where voter registration could be handled. Although the IHS runs under the supervision of Dr. Yvette Roubideaux (Sicangu Lakota-Rosebud), it is an operating division of the Department of Health and Human Services led by Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. You can click here to send an email urging her to make IHS facilities available for voter registration. Not only to make it a possibility, but to make it a reality by providing the modest amount of funding required. That amounts to a modest half-million dollars.
In addition to directly lobbying in Washington, D.C., Keel is sending a letter in support of the registration idea directly to each of the dozens of IHS facilities, along with a copy of a report on the Indian vote from the research and advocacy organization, Dēmos.
Keel writes: “The Indian Health Service is a key agency in delivering on the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribes. As outlined in the report, IHS facilities, conveniently and centrally located in many tribal communities, are ideal voter registration sites. Joining other federal and state agencies in offering this service to clients will make a large impact in tribal communities, in the national Native Vote and in furthering the fulfillment of the federal trust responsibility.”
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Source: Daily Kos