How the Native Vote Can Change Nevada

May 5, 2022

In a 54-page report issued in April 2022, the Biden Administration studied the barriers facing Indigenous people in the United States today.

The report confirmed all the information that Tribal Minds, Inc. (and its partners) found while organizing in Indian Country in Nevada. What we learned the hard way was what the Biden Administration studied comprehensively. Notably, the Biden Administration came to the same conclusion that we did—that grassroots organizing matters for advancing voting justice—about Native communities and all other historically marginalized demographics.

The Biden Administration identified two barriers as significant issues facing Tribal communities’ disability access and voter access. First, "Native Americans have the highest rate of disability among all American ethnicities and racial groups; nearly one in four Native Americans has a disability," the Steering Group wrote. The result is an even more significant lack of access to polls when polls are physically inaccessible. That lack of access has two distinct forms: lack of access at the polling place itself and lack of access from a geographic standpoint.

When polling locations are so highly distant from many Tribal communities in Nevada is an example of failing disabled Indigenous people. The "tyranny of distance" compounds the failure of disability access and voter access itself. Extreme physical distances create barriers to access information to vote, including at polling locations—which include restrictions on Tribal identification cards—making it even more difficult for Indigenous people to participate in the voting process.

That is particularly the case as voter registration increasingly goes online while many Indigenous people continue to lack broadband access in remote communities. The report acknowledges the work we have done in Nevada to overcome these barriers. In 2021, the Nevada Legislature passed a bill allowing Tribes to request a polling site, which significantly increased the ability of Indigenous people in remote Nevada communities to acquire structural voter access.

After many instances of discrimination against Tribal communities, denying them the right to a polling location, the 2021 bill ensured advances for Indian Country. But, of course, that bill was the result of civic engagement by Tribal citizens and communities. The Indigenous grassroots efforts across the state bloomed into what is now considered the Nevada Native Voting Bloc. The work of Tribal leaders and community members swelled in support through legal and legislative channels, which manifested in a tremendous amount of Indigenous civic engagement in Nevada.

That historic first allowed us as Indigenous people to achieve notable victories in a short period and change the political landscape of Nevada to benefit the People. The Biden Administration's report is an excellent manifestation of Indigenous people's work to overcome the barriers we face to exercising our right to vote. It unveils the importance and significance of our civic engagement and emphasizes the rewards that NV Native Vote can achieve for Indian Country. If we organize and then mobilize, we can overcome the barriers we face in the colonial electoral system. If we do this in every election (Tribal, Local, State, and Federal), we will be victorious for Indigenous people and the Land.

The only limits we have are the limits of our dreams. Please register and vote!