Redrawn Arizona congressional map drains Native American voting power

Tribal areas have been swept into a new majority Republican district where GOP candidates ignore Native issues

By Evan Wyloge | The Guardian.org

For Native Americans in Arizona, the recently redistricted US House map will mean a loss of political power once protected by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, leaving the state’s solidly Democratic tribal areas with the prospect of a fringe-Republican congressional representative.

Democrats supported by Indigenous voters won every election for the past ten years in a district drawn expressly to empower Native American voters by a redistricting commission that relied on input from the area’s various tribes in 2011.

But new redistricting commissioners in 2021 didn’t have to comply with longstanding justice department “preclearance” requirements, after the landmark voting rights act provision was dismantled by a conservative majority of the US supreme court in the 2013 Shelby County v Holder decision.

The new district, redrawn without having to protect minority voting blocs from political backsliding, leaves Indigenous voters in the state with a near guarantee that a bolstered white majority will overpower them and elect Republicans for the next decade.

“The redistricting commission did a job on us,” said Lena Fowler, a county supervisor and longtime advocate for Native Americans in northern Arizona. “What they did to us was unbelievable.”

The unique relationship between Native Americans and the federal government, Fowler emphasized, is what makes congressional representation especially important.

“Tribes have treaty obligations and funding that comes directly from the federal government for education, water rights, roads – our health care is directly related to our congressional representation,” Fowler said. Being able to have that voice in Congress, and having that representative know what your needs and issues are, is so important.”

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