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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Native American voting assistance passes Legislature

By Ryan Blake The Spokesman-Review

OLYMPIA – Some unique challenges tribal members face in voting could be removed under a bill that received final approval in the Legislature on Friday.

If signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Native American Voting Rights Act would allow tribal members to request voter registration services be provided at state and tribal facilities on reservations. Voters could register using those buildings’ address as well, or register using nontraditional addresses. They could register online with valid tribal identification cards, and tribes could request additional ballot drop boxes and determine their placement.

This is about equality, said Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow.

“There is nothing more fundamental than democracy. All of us as Americans are meant to have an equal voice,” Lekanoff, a member of the Swinomish tribe, said during the House debate this week.

Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, called it a simple and reasonable way to ensure people with nontraditional addresses can participate in the voting process.

“We like voter access. We like encouraging the franchise to all rightly registered voters in the state of Washington,” Walsh said.

The bill passed the House 95-3 on Tuesday with an amendment to require drop boxes be placed on public roads. The Senate, which previously approved the bill, agreed to the change Friday and sent it to Inslee on a 45-3 vote.

Among Spokane-area legislators, Republicans Bob McCaslin and Matt Shea voted no in the House. Republican Mike Padden voted no in the Senate.