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Native American Voting Rights Act

DNC Native American Engagement


DNC Native Americans

DNC Native American Engagement
August 7th, 2015

DNC Native American Council Chair, Rion Ramirez  
DNC Director of Native American Engagement, PaaWee Rivera


Good Afternoon,
Yesterday we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was aimed at ending racial discrimination in our election system.  Yet, 50 years later, Republicans continue to fight against the American people by restricting access to the ballot box, such as voter ID laws, cutting back on early voting periods, and eliminating same-day registration.  These insidious laws are designed to suppress minority participation in elections and we have seen some of the most egregious cases take place in Indian Country. 
Despite the significance of the 50th Anniversary of the VRA as one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in our Nation’s history, Republicans made no mention of the historic anniversary or voting rights at-large during last night’s Republican primary debate.  It is apparent that Republicans would rather talk about Donald Trump and building a wall on the southern border than ensuring that every American has an equal voice in our Democracy. 
The fact the Native Americans face a wide range of barriers to vote is no secret.  President Obama and his Administration have made it a priority to address these barriers.  Earlier this year, the Department of Justice proposed legislation to improve access to voting for American Indians and Alaska Natives.  Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “As citizens of a nation founded upon the principles of liberty and equality, Native Americans have faced unacceptable barriers to participating in the franchise, a situation aggravated by a history of discrimination, poverty and — significantly — great distances from polling places.
In addition, President Obama has taken unprecedented steps to give Indian Country a voice and strengthen government-to-government relationships between the United States and tribal governments.  In fact this past July, not only did the President visit Choctaw Nation to meet with tribal leaders, but the White House made history by hosting its first ever White House Tribal Youth Conference as a part of their Generation Indigenous initiative.  Over a thousand Native American Youth, representing 230 tribes, from 42 states met with First Lady Michelle Obama, members of the Cabinet, members of Congress, senior White House officials, and federal agency staff to focus on improving the lives of Native youth through new investments and increased engagement.   

Republicans simply don’t get Indian Country’s priorities and they would take us back to the Bush Era policies where we had no voice in the process and no seat at the table.  I hope you can join me at our Native American Council Meeting in Minnesota to discuss how we ensure that Indian Country still has a voice at the highest levels of our government by doing all that we can to elect another Democrat to lead our country in 2016!
What we have been up to!
It’s hard to believe that August is upon us and our annual summer meeting is only a few weeks away.  Over the past two months, we have been active in reaching out to tribal leaders, state democratic parties, state Native American caucuses, Native American elected officials, and other allied organizations. Our objective is to build a vast network of support within the Native American community and developing specific Native American outreach resources.  To that end, if you can help identify leaders in this space, please reach out to us with your suggestions.
We face unique challenges in reaching out to Native Americans given the extreme statistical diversity of our population.  Indian Country is made up of 5.2 million people belonging to 567 federally recognized tribes spread across a vast geographic areas.  Roughly 78% of the Native American population lives off the reservation and 40% is under the age of 25.  Given our demographic challenges, it is important that we organize early on to maximize Native American turnout in 2016.
Below are some of the initiatives underway.  Please reach out to us with suggestions and additional information to help build out our Native American outreach. Thank you.

  • Engage with state parties to discuss specific Native American outreach and organizational plans.  On July 30th, the Association of State Democratic Chairs hosted Chairman Ramirez and PaaWee Rivera as panelists on a webinar to discuss Native American engagement.  The webinar focused on a broad understanding of why the Native American vote is important, how to engage with Native communities, and how the DNC can be a resource for Native American outreach.   
  • Work with the Party Affairs and Delegate Selection Department (PADS) and the Rules and Bylaws Committee to ensure that Native American diversity is included in every state party delegate diversity plan. 
  • Continue to build our surrogate contact list including: tribal leaders, Native state legislators, key community leaders, and prominent Native American figures.
  • Continue to organize the national calendar of important dates. 
  • Develop a comprehensive list of media outlets including: tribal radio stations, tribal newspapers, tribal newstations, and other media outlets.
  • Develop our social media presence on Native American Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms.


DNC Summer August Meeting:  August 26th-29th 2015, Minneapolis MN
Save the Date!  August 26th from 4:00-5:00 PM, the DNC Native American Council will convene for our annual summer meeting.  Chairman Ramirez and PaaWee Rivera will discuss the Party’s Native American engagement plans as we prepare for the Democratic National Convention and general election in 2016.  Later in the week, participants will also hear from all the Democratic presidential candidates as they address the general assembly.  This will be the last time that the DNC will meet before the Convention next July in Philadelphia, so we look forward to seeing you all there!  Please RSVP to PaaWee Rivera at if you plan on attending. 
Democratic Primary Debate Schedule:
1.      October 13, CNN, Nevada
2.      November 14, CBS/KCCI/Des Moines Register, Des Moines, IA
3.      December 19, ABC/WMUR, Manchester, NH
4.      January 17, NBC/Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Charleston, SC
5.      February or March, Univision/Washington Post, Miami, FL
6.      February or March, PBS, Wisconsin
Key Legislation on the Hill
Native American Voting Rights Act- July 30th, Senator Tester (D-MT), Senator Udall (D-NM), Senator Franken (D-MN) introduced a bill to “require each state to establish polling locations on reservations upon request from the tribe, including early voting locations in states that allow votes to be cast prior to Election Day. The bill also directs state election administrators to mail absentee ballots to the homes of all registered voters if requested by the tribe”
Senator Tester Press Release:


Link to Bill:

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