Court upholds voting rights for Native Americans without physical addresses
Native American voting rights received a win Sept. 14 when U.S. District Court Judge Susan R. Bolton ruled in favor of the Tohono O’odham Nation, the Gila River Indian Community and Native voters against a voter suppression law requiring proof of a physical address.
More than 40,000 homes on Native American reservations across Arizona do not have physical addresses. The order holds that the proof of address requirements in Arizona HB 2492 are preempted by the National Voter Registration Act.
Under HB2492, citizens who want to vote must provide proof of a physical address in a new pre-registration process.
The new requirements would have made it impossible for many reservation voters to participate in elections because homes on tribal lands in Arizona lack a standard physical address far more often than off-reservation homes.
The lack of postal delivery also means most residents of the two tribes’ reservations do not have documents that include both their name and an address corresponding with the physical location of their home.
Under Bolton’s ruling, the bill’s address requirements must be liberally interpreted so that no one is required to have a standard street address in order to vote and so that numerous documents can be used to satisfy the requirement, including an Arizona-issued ID listing only a P.O. Box or any tribal identification document, regardless of whether it has an address.
“We applaud the Court’s ruling, which ensures citizens living in their tribal communities will not be disenfranchised because they don’t have an address. Native people in Arizona will continue to fight for their right to participate in democracy,” said Native American Rights Fund Staff Attorney Allison Neswood.
“The Gila River Indian Community is pleased with this decision, which will ensure our Community members can exercise their right to vote using tribal identification and our Reservation addresses,” said Gila River Indian Community Governor Stephen Lewis. “We continue to fight for our voice to be heard through our vote and will resist any attempts to suppress our votes because, as we have shown in the last several elections, our Community’s vote counts and the Native vote matters.”
Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Verlon Jose said, “This is a great day for the Tohono O’odham Nation and all Arizona tribes. This decision reaffirms that tribal citizens have the same constitutional voting rights as every other American. The Nation will always fight to uphold our people’s right to vote, which is the foundation of our democracy. We want to thank the Native American Rights Fund for working with us to bring about this momentous ruling.”