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Tribal Affairs

Two Montana Officials Attending National Indian Voting Rights Roundtable

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National American Indian Rights Fund
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The official logo for the National American Indian Rights Fund

Two Montana officials are participating in a national roundtable event tomorrow about how to dismantle roadblocks keeping Indigenous people away from voting.

On Tuesday, U.S. Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Chairwoman Shelly Fyant are both speakers at a roundtable event discussing Indigenous voting rights. The event is available online through the Native American Research Fund and the National Congress of American Indians and aims at examining the barriers for Indigenous voters and protecting voting rights in Indian Country.

Jacqueline De León is an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund and the roundtable’s moderator. She says that when Indigenous voters can’t get to the polls or are discriminated against it sends a clear message.

“When it's made really difficult to vote, I think it becomes communicated very clearly to the person that's trying to vote that their vote's not wanted,” De León says.

De León says that barriers include lack of transportation, a high number of clerical errors including rural Indigenous homes to receive ballots, and racism perpetrated by polling officials.

She expects the discussion to deepen the conversation so leaders can make informed decisions.

“The point of this forum is to provide the public and tribal leaders insight into what's going on in many tribal communities. And I expect to receive a robust discussion,” De León says.

Follow this link to register for the 1 pm MST event.

Taylar Stagner is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for Amerca Indigenous Affairs reporter.