SACRAMENTO—A measure to help Native Americans gain greater access to the electoral process will go Gov. Gavin Newsom for his review after the Assembly concurred today in Senate amendments on a 60 to 0 vote.
Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland) said his bill, AB 2314, would require the Secretary of State to convene an advisory task force to recommend strategies for increasing Native American voter participation. “Native Americans were denied American citizenship and voting rights until the 20th Century and that history still has a chilling effect on electoral and civic participation,” he observed. Ramos, elected in 2018, hails from the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe and is a lifelong member of the San Manuel Indian Reservation in San Bernardino County. He is the first California Indian elected to the Legislature.
The task force would consist of the Secretary of State, his or her designees and additional members he appoints. All members of the panel would be required to have experience with voting rights or be county election officials. Committee members would be asked to make recommendations to recruit Native American poll workers, improving the availability of election materials such as voter information, public service announcements and other means of increasing Native American voter participation.
Ramos said even after 1924 when Native Americans were granted U.S. citizenship, full voting rights for Indians were not guaranteed. It was not until 1962 that all states allowed Native Americans to enjoy complete voting rights.
“That right to vote gives each person a say in how he or she 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 stated.
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 that Native American voters face to participate 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."
Chairman Anthony Roberts of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation said, “Native Americans were denied the right to vote by law for so long. Today, many are still denied this right by practice. Obstacles remain such as a lack of polling places and the rejection of certain types of identification. Until those obstacles are addressed, California’s Native Americans remain at risk of being excluded, with no voice in government, the education of their children and other vital services.”
AB 2314 is sponsored by Secretary of State Alex Padilla. It is supported by the Advancement Project California, American Civil Liberties Union of California, California Native Vote Project, California Teachers Association, Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation and Yurok Tribe.
Assemblymember James Ramos proudly represents the 40th Assembly district which includes Highland, Loma Linda, Mentone, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and San Bernardino.