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Tribal members are disenfranchised



To the Editor,

I’m a member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (TAT) on the Fort Berthold Reservation located in North Dakota. Our form of disenfranchisement is that off-reservation tribal members must return to the reservation to vote. TAT members are nationally distributed and the voting-day is a weekday. Mail-in ballots are extremely limited.

Currently, we are canvasing for the petition “restore off-reservation voting rights” signatures. The approximately 10k eligible TAT voters are about 2:1 favoring the off-reservation tribal members. The use of mail-in ballots for off-reservation voters was removed from the tribal constitution in 1986.

We have two major roadblocks:

(1) Our Tribal Business Council (TBC) does not support the petition. Our governance could be described as autocratic. As such their influence is far reaching. Second-hand, jobs have been put at risk.

(2) Our voter inertia/apathy. Out of the 10k eligible voters, less than 2k actually vote. Our vote count winner is settled by 50% + 1. As such, a very small number of voters controls our governance.

Do you have/know-of tools, alternate paths, methods, financial support, etc., that would assist our petition efforts?

It seems like a tribal Supreme Court was mentioned. Was the reference to the US Supreme Court?

Ray Cross is our spokesperson and he is quite knowledgeable in Indian Law.

The remarks above are my opinions.

Ray Baker, TAT Elder
Ft. Berthold, ND
Ray Baker <otra@pacbell.net>



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