South Dakota House State Affairs Committee Advances Bill to Expand and Protect Native American Voting Rights

Native Vote. With a 9-3 vote on Wednesday, the South Dakota House State Affairs Committee voted to pass a bill that would expand and protect Native American voting rights in the state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 119, would allow Native American voters to register to vote using their Tribal identification on the same par as a state-issued driver’s license. It would help Native Americans overcome the structural and socioeconomic barriers that have long contributed to their historically low participation in elections.

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The measure is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of South Dakota.

“If Native Americans can engage fully in the political system — free from the barriers that currently obstruct them — they can participate in America in a way that is fair and just,” Samantha Chapman, ACLU of South Dakota advocacy manager said in a press statement. “Passing this bill and signing it into law would remove a significant obstacle to voting for many Native Americans in South Dakota.”

Across the United States, approximately 34 percent of the known eligible Native American voting population is not registered to vote, according to the Native American Rights Fund.

“Voting is a constitutional right that is fundamental to the health of our democracy,” Chapman said. “We’re thrilled to see South Dakota lawmakers doing everything they can to encourage participation from all eligible voters – not making it harder.”

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