The state of Native American voting rights is once again at a crossroads. Lawmakers and tribes are looking to ensure political equality and fair access to the ballot box for Native American communities, while the recent ruling in Brakebill v. Jaeger barred nearly 10 percent of all voting-age Native Americans living in North Dakota of their right to vote.

The Native American Rights Fund initially filed the lawsuit, Brakebill v. Jaeger, in 2016 on behalf of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa tribe members. The lawsuit alleges that the law discriminates against Native American voters in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The law at issue requires North Dakota residents to show identification with a current street address. Many residents of Native American reservations do not have street addresses, however, and instead possess P.O. box numbers, which don’t qualify under the law in North Dakota. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals—in a 2-to-1 majority—upheld North Dakota’s voter ID requirement.

Changes in federal law and policy have a profound and long-lasting impact on all Indian tribes. Perhaps nothing is more fundamental to the survival of tribal governments than their sovereignty and political power. As is clear from recent decisions, newspaper headlines, and other media reports, tribes are experiencing an increasingly complicated legal and political landscape. Assessing the interplay between tribes, courts, federal agencies, and the current political climate is key to moving forward in a productive, positive way.

The status of Indian tribes and their relationship to the federal government will be a core talking point at the Federal Bar Association’s upcoming D.C. Indian Law Conference, being held at the FHI 360 Conference Center in Washington, D.C., on Friday, October 25. The conference will be overflowing with analysis that will explore the latest issues in Indian Law. This conference is focused on federal election law, governance, environment, gaming, agriculture, criminal law, tribal jurisdiction, leadership, and sustainable economic and community development. It will cover obstacles to effective collaboration between sovereign entities as well as offer guidance on best practices. The conference features a host of speakers and panelists, including academics, Indian lawyers, tribal legal representatives, and federal practitioners. Speakers represent tribes across the country in litigation, lobbying, economic development, health care, self-determination and self-government, and tribal government matters.

Join the FBA Indian Law Section for their Annual D.C. Indian Law Conference in our nation’s capital. Located at the heart of the country’s political landscape, don’t miss this intimate opportunity to hear from both the private and public sectors. Sign up today at www.fedbar.org/dcil19.

 

About the Author

Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.

About the FBA

Founded in 1920, the Federal Bar Association is dedicated to the advancement of the science of jurisprudence and to promoting the welfare, interests, education, and professional development of all attorneys involved in federal law. Our more than 16,000 members run the gamut of federal practice: attorneys practicing in small to large legal firms, attorneys in corporations and federal agencies, and members of the judiciary. The FBA is the catalyst for communication between the bar and the bench, as well as the private and public sectors. Visit us at fedbar.org to learn more.