Bill to remove barriers to Native American voter access clears first Senate committee

AB 2314 would require the Secretary of State to create a Native American Voting Accessibility Committee

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO—A proposal to help Native Americans gain greater access to the electoral process was approved today on a 5-0 vote by the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments.

The bill, AB 2314, by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) would require the Secretary of State to create a Native American Voting Accessibility Committee to:

  • Establish guidelines for reaching as many Native American voters as practical;
  • Recommend ways to improve the availability and accessibility of election voter materials such as state voter information guides;
  • Recommend ways to distribute public service announcements identifying the availability of public service announcements and voter telephone information lines; and
  • Recruit and train Native American poll workers and make recommendations to provide Native American voters with language assistance.

“It wasn’t until 1962 that the Native American right to vote was fully recognized in every state. A concerted effort is required to help overcome the long history of Native American voter suppression, Ramos said. “That right to vote gives each person a say in how they will be governed, who will guide school districts and counties, a say in passing measures for parks, hospitals, roads, water lines, roads, libraries and more,” Ramos said.

He observed that voter turnout among Native Americans is five to 14 percent lower than that of other ethnic or racial groups. Native Americans, Ramos said, faced the same barriers to voting as African Americans and other minorities such as poll taxes, literacy tests and intimidation. Many only possess tribal identification, which is not recognized for voting purposes.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla, the bill’s sponsor said, “Learning from the experience and expertise of voting rights experts and tribal representatives will help us address the unique challenges Native American voters face in participating in our elections, both on and off the reservation. California’s nearly three quarters of a million Native Americans deserve to have their voices heard in our democracy."

AB 2314 is sponsored by Secretary of State Padilla and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Advancement Project California, California Native Vote Project, California Teachers Association, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake and the Yurok Tribe.

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Assemblymember James Ramos represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.