Last week, the New Mexico Secretary of State’s Native American Voting Taskforce (NAVTF) met at the Pueblo of Laguna in Casa Blanca. The Secretary of State worked in collaboration with the League of Women Voters to give election information that is specific for Native communities. These voter guides have information about the candidates on the ballots, the questions that will be on the ballot, and voting location dates. Native language translation will be available to Native people as well. After the Taskforce met, there was a training for interpreters who will be responsible for what will be aired on the radio stations where tribal communities are located.
In New Mexico, where twenty-three federally recognized tribes call home, there are a large variety of Native languages spoken: Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, Keres, Zuni, Navajo, and Apache. While there is a fight to preserve traditional languages, there are still elders and some young people who are more fluent in their Native language and they should not be barred from participating in the electoral system.
“I’m extremely proud of the work the Taskforce is doing and I want to make sure that eligible Native American voters know about the resources that are available to help them vote in the November 6th general election,” said Secretary of State Toulouse Oliver. “I encourage tribal members throughout New Mexico to get registered to vote before the October 9th deadline by visiting NMvote.org.”
Having these kinds of resources provided by the State is such welcomed news; one need not look very far to understand the difficult battle Native communities have fought to even get the right to vote in New Mexico, and other places, with just an English language ballot. Miguel Trujillo (Isleta Pueblo) won a pivotal court case in just 1948 that guaranteed Native Americans the right to vote; before that the New Mexico constitution read, “idiots, insane persons, persons convicted of felonious or infamous crime unless restored to political rights, and Indians not taxed.”
It has been seventy years since Miguel fought to make sure Native communities have the right to vote and it would not be fair to not mention the impact this court case has had on the real lives of Native communities in New Mexico. People of color, women, indigenous people and a host of others have fought hard over the last century to be heard within the voting process. The NM Secretary of State working so intentionally on this issue shows the commitment we have as New Mexicans to be an inclusive democracy.