The Long Road to the Native Vote
By Johnny Stickman, GOTNV Intern
Get Out the Native Vote (GOTNV) is a non-partisan effort to encourage the mobilization of tribal members, shareholders and other Native voters to exercise their hard-fought right to vote. GOTNV is a nationwide grassroots effort and in Interior Alaska, it is supported by a strong partnership between Doyon, Limited, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Interior Regional Housing Authority, Fairbanks Native Association, and local volunteers.
The history of the Native American vote has long been clouded by unfair treatment and uncertainty. In Alaska, the right to vote by Native people was determined by citizenship as early as 1915; however, citizenship and the right to vote were determined by the severance of tribal relationships and literacy tests. On June 2, 1924, the United States Congress passed the Indian Citizenship Act granting all Native Americans citizenship. Thereafter, the right to vote by American Indians was governed state by state.
Regardless of having citizenship, whether or not American Indians had the right to vote was still up for question. For example, in 1962, a case called Montoya v. Bolack was brought to court in New Mexico. The reason for the case was to determine if Navajo people residing on the reservation were eligible to vote, given they did not pay taxes while living on the reservation. In that case, the court upheld the right of the Navajo to vote in New Mexico’s state elections.
Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Right Act (VRA) of 1965, which was aimed at overcoming voter discrimination in state and local elections. The act included a section giving the Department of Justice power to regulate elections in states with a history of ballot-box discrimination against minorities. Alaska was among the regulated states because of its history of discrimination against Alaska Natives. In 2013, a Supreme Court ruling struck down key provisions of the act, and since then Alaska’s elections have not been subject to federal approvals.
This story is part of the history that has led to current mobilization efforts like Get Out the Native Vote. It serves as a reminder that the Native vote does count and can have an impact on the results of any election.
To volunteer for GOTNV or for more information on voter registration and the upcoming election, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.