Federal commission adds three Native American languages to voter registration resources

By: - November 29, 2021 6:00 pm

The title page of the new voting information resource released in the Navajo language.

Access to voting information got a little bit easier for some Native Americans. 

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has released new national voter registration forms that are available in Diné, Apache and Yup’ik languages. This is the first time the federal commission released voting materials with any type of Native American translations. 

The commission is a bipartisan federal group responsible for developing guidance and meeting the requirements of the Help America Vote Act, which also include bilingual registration, voting notices, forms and other election materials. 

Resources in 21 languages are now available with the addition of the three just added.

“With access to election materials translated by Native speakers from within their own communities, Native American voters will have a better understanding of the election process and greater accessibility,” according to a press statement from the commission.

According to a report the commission published, more than 25% of Native Americans 5 -years and older speak a language other than English.

New Mexico created the Native American Voting Task Force in 2017 to boost participation. The group is made up of 10 members representing Navajo, Apache and Pueblo citizens. They meet to address voting needs from their community and report their recommendations to the Secretary of State.

The task force identifies eight Native American languages spoken by sovereign communities in New Mexico and has partnered with local groups to provide greater access to elections, including using traditional languages in voting resources.

Language restrictions were just one of the barriers federal commissioners identified as leading to low participation for Native American voters in the United States. 

In the same report, they also pointed to a lack of broadband connectivity, complications around non-traditional mailing addresses, poor access to existing polling sites, and that polling locations must be available  to provide Native American communities adequate voting opportunities under the law.

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Shaun Griswold
Shaun Griswold

Shaun Griswold is a journalist in Albuquerque. He is a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna, and his ancestry also includes Jemez and Zuni on the maternal side of his family. He grew up in Albuquerque and Gallup. He brings a decade of print and broadcast news experience. Shaun reports on issues important to Native Americans in urban and tribal communities throughout the state, including education and child welfare.