Padilla Introduces Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) is co-sponsoring the Frank Harrison, Elizabeth Peratrovich, and Miguel Trujillo Native American Voting Rights Act of 2021 (NAVRA). This landmark voting rights legislation, led by Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) will protect the sacred right to vote and ensure equal access to the electoral process for Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and voters living on Tribal lands. Companion legislation was introduced by U.S. Representatives Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Tom Cole (R-OK).
“We cannot have an inclusive democracy if we do not provide Native Americans equal access to the ballot,” Padilla said. “We must address the systemic and other barriers that Native Americans face when voting, and customize our elections administration to ensure that Tribal communities are not denied equal participation in our democratic process. In addressing these unique challenges, we must also listen to and collaborate with Tribes. As California’s Secretary of State, I supported the creation of a task force to advise elections officials on improving Native American voter participation—this legislation would bring that concept to states across the nation.”
The United States has a responsibility to enact voting rights legislation to protect the constitutionally-guaranteed right of Native Americans to vote. However, Native American voters have historically faced unique challenges when exercising their right to vote. Geographic isolation, non-traditional mailing addresses, lack of residential mail delivery, lack of affordable and reliable broadband service, limited transportation, less access to polling and registration sites than those not located on Tribal lands, Native language translation needs, and poverty are just some of the distinct issues confronting Native voters that demand a legislative solution.
NAVRA would enact key measures, such as allowing Tribes to specify the number and locations of requested voter registration sites, drop boxes and polling locations on Tribal lands, and authorizing Tribal ID cards for voting purposes. The bill would also help establish state-level Native American voting task forces to address the unique voting issues faced by voters on Tribal lands by authorizing a $10 million Native American Voting Rights Task Force grant program. It would also require prior Tribal notice and consent before States and precincts could remove, consolidate, or otherwise reduce access to voting locations on Tribal lands.
Prior to his appointment to the United State Senate, Padilla served as California’s Secretary of State—the state’s chief elections officer. In 2020, Padilla backed state legislation authored by Assemblymember James Ramos—signed into law by Governor Newsom—to create an advisory task force to recommend strategies for increasing Native American voter participation in California.
In addition to Padilla and Luján, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Booker (D-N.J.), Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Feinstein (D-Calif.), Heinrich (D-N.M), Hirono (D-Hawaii), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Merkley (D-Ore.), Rosen (D-Nev.), Sanders (I-Vt.), Schatz (D-Hawaii), Smith (D-Minn.), Tester (D- Mont.), Van Hollen (D-MD), and Warren (D-Mass.). More than 30 voting rights and Tribal organizations endorsed the legislation.
The legislation is endorsed by the National Congress of American Indians, Native American Rights Fund (NARF), Native American Voting Rights Coalition, Alaska Federation of Natives, Tanana Chiefs Conference, Midwest Alliance of Sovereign Tribes, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund, National Indian Education Association, Inter Tribal Association of Arizona, Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Coalition of Large Tribes, Advance Native Political Leadership, California Native Vote Project, North Dakota Native Vote, Four Directions, Las Vegas Indian Center, NDN Collective, Sacred Pipe Resource Center, Tribal Minds Inc., United Natives, All Pueblo Council of Governors, Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, Navajo Nation, American Civil Liberties Union, Asian American Advancing Justice, Brennan Center for Justice, Fair Elections Center, NAACP (LDF), Campaign Legal Center, Demos, National Disability Rights Network, Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.