An upcoming State Bar of Arizona program explores the continued barriers to Native American electoral participation.

An upcoming State Bar of Arizona program explores the continued barriers to Native American electoral participation.

Still unsure what barriers prevent or dissuade Native American participation in the electoral process? As we head into election season, the barriers to exercising the franchise—and progress eradicating those barriers—will be addressed in a Phoenix program on Thursday, October 20.

Titled “Political Buy-In: A Look at the Barriers to (and) Participation of Native Americans in Tribal, State and Federal Elections,” organizers at the State Bar of Arizona describe it this way:

“This program will examine both the advances in Native American participation in all levels of elections and the continued barriers to effective participation in the election process. Participants can expect to gain a broad overview of how redistricting efforts, voter ID laws, and language barriers continue to marginalize Native Americans at the polls. The program will also look at possible changes to Native American participation at the federal level.”

A public radio program this week illustrates just how basic some of those barriers can be. In this story, journalist Carrie Jung spoke with Native Americans who face clear and existential obstacles to participating in elections.

Among those barriers are language challenges; traveling large distances, perhaps without a car; and even obtaining a voter ID when you have no formal address.

As Lori Riddle told Jung, “We’re used to giving directions out here by landmarks. There’s a tree. There’s two trees. There’s a big bush with purple flowers on it. [Poll workers have] tried to turn me away on a few occasions, even though they knew me.”

Among the topics to be discussed at the October 20 seminar are:

  • Voting Accessibility Act
  • Voter treatment in the polling places
  • Current lobbying trends in Native American Country
  • Implications of lack of early access voting for Native American voters
  • Constitutional guarantees

Panelists will be:

  • Heather Sibbison, Dentons LLP, Washington, DC
  • Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
  • James T. Tucker, Armstrong Teasdale LLP, Las Vegas, NV
  • Mary O’Grady, Osborn Maledon PA, Phoenix

The seminar chair will be Virjinya Torrez, Assistant Attorney General for the Tohono O’odham Nation.

You can register here.

If you’re wondering why all this still matters in 2016, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee breaks it down as she speaks to KJZZ’s Carrie Jung:

“We’re the first people of the United States. And when people face these roadblocks, sometimes they’re not empowered. And we want to empower people. We’re a democracy.”

Speaker photos are below (click to enlarge).

Coalition of Bar Associations 2013

L to R: Bill Simonitsch, NAPABA incoming President-Elect; Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, NNABA Immediate Past-President; Peter Reyes, Jr., HNMA National President; Linda Benally, NNABA President-Elect; Wendy Shiba, NAPABA President; Patricia Rosier, NBA President-Elect; and Miguel Alexander Pozo, HNBA National President-Elect.

Recently, I heard from numerous bar leaders about a noteworthy event that occurred in Washington, DC—and that has implications for Arizona.

This past month, an annual gathering of the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color occurred. A press release describes it below. It’s worth noting that Arizona lawyers take a leadership rolw in the organization.

The Coalition “was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA).”

I have also heard conversation about the possibility of the NNABA moving its national headquarters to Arizona. I have followed up on that and hope to share news from NNABA leaders as details firm up.

Here is the announcement about the annual meeting:

Coalition Of Bar Associations Holds Annual Meeting

Meets With White House Officials and Congressional Representatives to

Address Issues Affecting Communities of Color

WASHINGTON – This week, the Coalition of Bar Associations of Color (CBAC) gathered in Washington, DC, for its Annual Meeting. CBAC’s leaders discussed key issues affecting communities of color, including immigration reform, voter suppression, and judicial vacancies. This year’s Annual Meeting included visits with key executive branch officials and members of Congress, including meetings with U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, and high-level staffers from the offices of Senators Patrick Leahy, Orin Hatch, and Marco Rubio.

CBAC was established in 1992 and is comprised of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA), the National Bar Association (NBA), and the National Native American Bar Association (NNABA). CBAC meets annually every spring so that leaders from its member organizations can discuss issues of mutual concern and advocate in support of their shared interests.

“We will continue to work with Congress and the White House to find solutions to issues of concern for the benefit of our country, including the dire need for immigration reform,” said Peter M. Reyes Jr., president of HNBA. “Our mission is to ensure that generations of future lawyers are given the opportunity to make a difference within their respective communities.”

“The CBAC annual meeting provides us with the opportunity to collaborate with other bar associations of color and put forth a collective effort to remain engaged on critical issues, particularly on diversifying the bench and bar,” said Patricia Rosier, president-elect of NBA and host of this year’s CBAC meeting. “For over 20 years, CBAC has demonstrated the importance of and need for our collective efforts and every year our message grows in clarity and strength.”

 “Our participation in CBAC provides a unique opportunity for NAPABA and the other national bars of color to collaborate on issues that are of critical importance to Asian Pacific Americans and all of our communities,” said Wendy C. Shiba, president of NAPABA. “We stand stronger together, and this week we collectively advocated for the confirmation of highly accomplished judicial candidates who would further diversify the federal bench, legislation and initiatives to combat human trafficking, and passage of commonsense immigration reform that emphasizes family unity and an earned pathway to citizenship.”

“The lack of knowledge about federal Indian law and tribal law affects how Native Americans fare in the federal court system,” said Linda Benally, president-elect of NNABA. “While NNABA applauds the recent confirmation of a Native Hawaiian to the federal bench, there currently is not a single Native American serving as an Article III judge. NNABA – working along with its CBAC partners – is committed to ensuring that opportunities are provided for Native Americans within the judiciary and the legal profession.”