Stacey Abrams Moves To Save Native American Votes From GOP Sabotage

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As Republicans in positions of state-level leadership around the country continue their efforts to impose new restrictions on voting, voting rights activist Stacey Abrams has issued a new call to action, calling on Congress to promptly pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Each piece of legislation would, in its own way, bolster voting rights protections at the federal level. A wide range of policy proposals are included in the For the People Act, while the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act operates more narrowly, aiming to reimpose a requirement for pre-approval by federal authorities before the implementation of certain changes to the conducting of elections. The hope would be to stop voter suppression before it starts. The For the People Act has already been filibustered by Senate Republicans, but former President Barack Obama recently said that he was confident that Democratic leaders are “going to figure out a way in which there’s an up and down vote on the For the People Act.” The Senate is slated to take up the other bill later this year.

Meanwhile, Abrams commented on Twitter this week as follows:

‘From the recent SCOTUS decision on Brnovich v. DNC to the new Montana laws, Native American voters are being disproportionately harmed by restrictions on ballot collection—particularly in states like AK, NM, and OK. Congress must take immediate action by passing #S1 and #HR4.’

The Supreme Court decision that Abrams referenced upheld restrictive voting laws in Arizona. Specifically, the court’s majority opted to leave rules in place banning most individuals other than the voters themselves from returning mail-in ballots and disqualifying provisional ballots cast in precincts other than voters’ own. Each of these provisions could disproportionately impact marginalized voters. What if someone, for whatever reason, has a difficult time making it to an in-person polling place or elections office and/ or lives in an area with mail service delays?

The Montana laws that Abrams mentioned include a ban on paid collection of mail-in ballots by third parties and an elimination of same-day voter registration. Activists like those involved with a Montana group called Western Native Voice pay those working on their projects, and during this last election cycle, Western Native Voice helped return Native Americans’ ballots to authorities. There is no home mail delivery in certain parts of Native American reservations in Montana, so if someone can’t leave their home or head to an in-person polling place, then groups like Western Native Voice could provide critical community assistance — but help in the form that they provided it last year is now disallowed.