“After the COVID-19 pandemic ripped through Indian Country in New Mexico this spring, voter turnout among Native Americans declined… according to a new report from Common Cause New Mexico.” M. Gerstein, Santa Fe New Mexico Press
Excerpt: Native American vote suppressed by pandemic, By Michael Gerstein, Santa Fe New Mexico Press
“The report shows while the rest of the state experienced a voter turnout increase of 8 percent as county clerks grappled with a record flood of absentee ballots, turnout among Native Americans declined by 1 percent compared to the 2016 primary.
The tribal communities with the lowest turnout lined up with some of the areas of the state hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Turnout among Zia Pueblo members decreased 29 percent from the 2016 primary, while a number of precincts in the New Mexico portion of the Navajo Nation saw turnout drop 17 percent or more from the 2016 primary, according to the report.
‘COVID-19 hit Native American communities disproportionately, and people faced new obstacles to voting,’ said Amber Carrillo, Native American voting rights organizer for Common Cause New Mexico, in a statement…Many Native voters who tried to cast their ballot during the June 2 primary election did not know where to go in person, and although voting was considered an essential activity and exempt from lockdown requirements on the Navajo Nation, many had to travel longer distances to vote, the report said.
Carrillo said one of the biggest hurdles for Native American voters was a lack of information about where to cast a ballot.‘There just needs to be a lot more information on radio and TV,’ Carrillo said. ‘Those are probably the primary places where tribal folks in rural [communities] are going to be engaged with.’
Voters also faced mail delays, long distances to drop off absentee ballots at post offices or post office boxes and in some cases had absentee ballots rejected due to signatures not matching or missing information…‘With less than 100 days until the 2020 general election, this is an urgent call for action,’the report said.
‘New Mexico’s leadership has taken several commendable steps to promote safe and accessible elections, but Native American voting rights will not be upheld unless best practices … are implemented and maintained.’
For the 2020 general election, the report urged every tribal administration building have a drop box where people can deposit absentee ballots.
It also calls for legislation to allow the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail at non-conforming addresses, audio recordings that translate and explain ballot items in tribal languages, prepaid postage on absentee ballots, counting ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and keeping in-person polling locations open on tribal lands, among other changes. The new emergency election law that passed during the special session this year, Senate Bill 4, allows tribes to keep polling locations open even if they’re closed to the general public…NM Native Vote has encouraged county clerks to create ballot drop boxes to ease ongoing worries over how turmoil within the U.S. Postal Service might affect absentee voting.”
“The right to vote is the most sacred American right there is — exercise it. Make your voice heard this November.”
~Democratic Presidential Leader Joe Biden~
~Democratic Vice-Presidential Leader Kamala Harris~
Indian Country’s Updated COVID-19 Syllabus
Coronavirus Q&A: What is it? The symptoms. And how it spreads
An explainer of every frequently asked question in relation to COVID-19.
Are you a Native student whose college or university has been closed or switched to online classes? Visit this spreadsheet for resources involving technology in Native communities. It is updated by San Juan College’s Native American Center.
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Basic information.
• National Congress of American Indians
• National Indian Health Board
• COVID-19: Native advisories and event updates