Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, has introduced legislation called the Native American Voting Rights Act, which is probably self explanatory in terms of its intent based on that title. The legislation calls for more polling locations on reservations and also directs states to mail absentee ballots to all reservation voters if requested by the tribe.
We can have a debate about the efficacy of that policy – I’m not necessarily hostile to either of those proposals though I think the matter should be left to the states – but what caught my eye was North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp’s comments in support of the legislation in the press release.
Because she’s alleging voter suppression aimed at Native American voters:
“For far too long, Native Americans have had their voices silenced at the voting booth because of unfair rules that often suppress their votes – and we still hear about it happening in North Dakota,” said Heitkamp. “We need to put an end to any form of voter discrimination and our bill would protect the voting rights of Native Americans. Every American should have the equal right to vote and it should be accessible, simple, and fair.”
So, according to Heitkamp, Native American votes are being suppressed in North Dakota? That’s news to me, and I follow this stuff pretty closely, so this leaves us with one of two possibilities being true.
- First, Heitkamp is aware of vote suppression efforts targeting Native Americans and has done nothing to investigate, substantiate, and reveal those efforts to the public outside of an oblique reference in this press release.
- Second, Heitkamp is manufacturing a sensational claim in order to give her words in support of this legislation some mustard.
I suspect the second of these options is the true one. Knowing what a rank opportunist Heitkamp is, and how hard she and her fellow Democrats have worked to cultivate the reservation vote, I can’t imagine that the Senator has knowledge of voter suppression efforts in North Dakota and did nothing to at least identify those efforts to the public. Especially given that I can’t find Heitkamp talking anywhere about specific instances of Native American voter suppression in North Dakota.
Now, I suppose it could be true that Heitkamp is talking about the state’s voter ID laws. North Dakota Democrats have long talked of ID requirements as a form of voter suppression. But this legislation Heitkamp is backing doesn’t touch voter ID laws, and the tribes themselves often use ID requirements for their own tribal elections.
I think Heitkamp should come clean on what she’s talking about here. If lawful votes from Native Americans are being suppressed then the public deserves to know about it. Heitkamp should provide specifics instead of general accusations so that the matter can be corrected. Because by doing nothing other than making vague reference to it, which seems to be all that Heitkamp has done, she’s basically complicit in the suppression.
But if votes aren’t being suppressed, if Heitkamp is just making things up for the sake of politics, then shame on her for misleading the public.
I’m going to request an explanation from Heitkamp’s office which she won’t respond to because the Senator is thin skinned and egotistical and doesn’t think she has to respond to her critics.