October 29, 2021

Vice Chairman Examines Barriers to Voting for Native People

Washington, D.C. – This week, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), welcomed the opportunity to hear from Native witnesses about the issues that continue to pose barriers to voting access during an oversight hearing she requested entitled: Voting Matters in Native Communities.


“The right to vote has evolved tremendously over time, including with respect to the voting rights of our First peoples. American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians—all Americans—deserve an equal opportunity to participate in our American electoral system and political process,” said Senator Murkowski during her opening remarks at the SCIA oversight hearing. “I have been inspired by the long and storied history of how Native Americans have fought to participate in and improve our nation through the democratic process. In Alaska, we are proud to share the legacy and contributions of early Alaska Native civil and voting rights leaders, including Elizabeth Peratrovich.”


Senator Murkowski noted the importance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965: “Native civil rights leaders have worked to overcome obstacles to participation, including deliberate efforts by state legislatures to deny Native Americans the right to vote through policies such as literacy tests, or sometimes even forcing Native people to abandon their cultures. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally made the promise to Native Americans that they would have full legal access to voting. The Voting Rights Act was pivotal in moving our country out of the dark Jim Crow era of American history.”


Click here to watch the Vice Chairman’s opening statement at the oversight hearing.


Pictured: Senator Murkowski at SCIA hearing on October 27


During the hearing, Vice Chairman Murkowski asked Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives, about what helps protect Native voting rights and specifically how Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act had deterred discriminatory practices in Alaska.


“Your testimony is thorough and shares well the concern that voting rights violations unfortunately are not a thing of the past.,” said Senator Murkowski during her questioning to Julie Kitka at the SCIA oversight hearing.


Click here to watch the Vice Chairman’s questioning at the oversight hearing.


SCIA Passes Bill to Protect Native Children

Prior to the oversight hearing, the SCIA held a business meeting to consider H.R. 1688, the Native American Child Protection Act. The Vice Chairman voted to advance H.R. 1688 through committee by voice vote. The bill now proceeds to the Senate floor for further consideration.


“I’m pleased that we, as a committee, are focusing on significant priorities of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian children, and ensuring that those most vulnerable have the protections needed. This bill focuses on grant programs for treatment and recovery of child abuse and neglect victims, helps modernize existing grant programs for better implementation by centralizing training and technical assistance through a national resource center. These are all important matters when dealing with issues of family violence,” said Senator Murkowski at the SCIA business meeting. 


Click here to watch the Vice Chairman’s opening statement at the business meeting.