HomeTop StoriesLegislation has been introduced to create a Native American Voting Rights Commission...

Legislation has been introduced to create a Native American Voting Rights Commission in Nebraska

Nebraska State Senator Jen Day (Photo/Nebraska Senate)

Indigenous voice. Legislation introduced in the Nebraska Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 28, would study barriers to voting access for the state’s Native American population.

The legislation, LB1262, was introduced by Senator Jen Day of Omaha. It would create a Native American Voting Rights Commission within the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs. The new commission would contract with a consultant with expertise in tribal issues to conduct a study of barriers to voting and equal representation among Native American tribes in Nebraska.

As introduced, the bill would require the commission to submit an annual report and ongoing policy recommendations to the Legislature beginning December 31, 2025. Day said she would offer an amendment to change that requirement to a one-time report.

Day said Thurston County is home to the largest Native American population in Nebraska and regularly has the lowest voter turnout of any county in the state. Geographic isolation, non-traditional mailing addresses, poor roads and technological barriers may be just some of the reasons for this, she said.

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Several other states have conducted similar studies or used a national report to implement recommendations for removing voting barriers, she said, and LB1262 could provide the same opportunity for Nebraska.

“By asking the right questions, our state will be able to uncover the barriers to voting [that are] specifically for Nebraska’s tribal lands so we can explore policy changes that would improve accessibility for all Native Americans in our state,” Day said.

Eugene DeCora Sr., an elected member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska Tribal Council, testified in favor of LB1262. There have been deliberate efforts to silence Native American voices at every level of government, he said, including in Nebraska, where he said the redistricting process has diluted the voting power of Winnebago tribal members.

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“Voting – having a voice in government – ​​is at the core of what it means to be an American,” DeCora said.

Nora Lenz also spoke in favor of the proposal on behalf of the Nebraska State Education Association. Many Native American communities are on the front lines of important public policy issues, she said, including environmental, health and education issues.

LB1262 would help promote the “active empowerment” of Native American voters, Lenz said, by taking into account the state’s history and voting trends in identifying barriers to Native voter participation and finding ways to remove those barriers to take.

The committee took no immediate action on LB1262.

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