Target: United States Department of Justice
Goal: Monitor voting in Arizona and ensure Navajo have equal access to voting registration
Arizona has a history of violating the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against minority voters; now it has come to the surface that several hundred Navajo residents eligible to vote in Arizona are being prevented from carrying out their civic right and duty. Although Arizona seems to provide ample options for people to provide proof of eligibility, many Navajo do not have access to these specific means to register. If they can register, the County Recorder’s Office has been known to nevertheless disenfranchise them under the claim of illegitimate address.
Over 500 eligible voters in Apache County, Arizona, most of them Navajo, have been placed on a suspense list, which threatens to permanently remove them from the voter roll. Those on the list live on the Navajo Nation, off paved roads, away from streets with names, and outside the Postal Service route. Because they only have P.O boxes, the County Recorder’s Office claims they do not have legitimate addresses. Further, many are below the poverty line; some do not have plumbing or electricity and fewer own vehicles. That leaves few documents with which to register to vote with. The remaining option is a Navajo Nation I.D. card, but distribution began only last year, and they are too expensive for many residents to afford.
The Justice Department has said that it will monitor voting in some Arizona counties to ensure that the Voting Rights Act is upheld, and no voter discrimination or suppression occurs. It is imperative that they monitor the upcoming election in Apache and other counties, but in addition, the county governments must make it a priority to ensure that all eligible residents have easy access to voter registration and are in no way systematically discriminated against or deterred from voting.
Dear U.S. Department of Justice,
Apache County, Arizona is systematically preventing several hundred residents of the Navajo Nation from voting in United States elections. Historically, Arizona has obscured the votes of Native Americans and minority race and language groups by discriminating against these members. And although the County provides multiple means to register, all are inaccessible to most Navajo residents.
Many of those living in the Navajo Nation in Apache County do not have satisfactory addresses because the area is so rural, yet they use P.O boxes, and voter registration forms technically acknowledge their residential status. Still, the County Recorder’s Office is not accepting such vague addresses, and places these voters, over 500 in Apache County, on a suspense list. Similar to an inactive status list, this status creates a period during which the voter may be permanently prevented from voting. Other means to prove eligibility and register to vote such as utility bills, vehicle registration, insurance, or bank statements are out of reach because so many Navajo in this county live below the poverty line, do not own vehicles, and do not have plumbing or electricity. A Navajo Nation I.D. card began to be issued last year, but it too is too expensive and not widely distributed.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prevents discrimination against any potential voter, and the Justice Department is bound to enforce this throughout the country. In 1972, Arizona phased out voter literacy tests. Now, decades later, minority and particularly Native voters are still systematically being discriminated against and deterred from voting. Please end this suppression and ensure that all eligible Navajo residents in Arizona are able and encouraged to vote.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: PhillipC via Flickr