The Struggle in Minnesota

American Indians in Minnesota have faced similar barriers to voting and participation in the political process as Indians nationwide. Access to voting for American Indians in Minnesota has also been obstructed.

Voter Identification Debate

In 2004 the American Civil Liberties Union is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization whose stated mission is "to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States", the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), Bonnie Door-Charwood (member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe) and Richard Smith and Tracy Martineau (both members of the Fond du Lac Band of Ojibwe) filed a lawsuit that challenged the Minnesota law prohibiting the use of a valid tribal ID for election-day voter registration if the voter did not live on a reservation.

The court ruled in 2005 that tribal IDs were in fact a valid form of ID and should be treated the same as a state-issued driver’s license. However, this issue resurfaced in Minnesota during a statewide debate on implementing Voter ID requirements for all voters.

American Indian Voices for Voting Rights: Vote NO on "Voter ID"

American Indian Voices for Voting Rights: Vote NO on "Voter ID"

Voting Barriers for American Indians

In the U.S. almost 40% of eligible AIAN people are not registered to vote, and among those registered, AIAN people have some of the lowest rates of voter turnout as compared to other racial and ethnic groups. American Indians who live on reservations — which are often located in rural areas — continue to face obstacles in voter registration as well as absentee and election day voting.

The isolation many of these Indian people face as well as the long travel times and cost of transportation prevent a disproportionate number of reservation-based Indian people from voting.

To address this concern, in 2014 Erma Vizenor, chairwoman of the White Earth Nation A band of Chippewa now centered in northern Minnesota. There are seven Chippewa reservations in Minnesota, led efforts to bring satellite early voting booths Places outside of normal polling stations where people can vote before election day to reservations in northern Minnesota. The reservations that were able to offer satellite voting were White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake.