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Members of the Crow tribe in Montana, seen participating in a 2018 powwow, are among those who sued over a new law restricting who can pick up and deliver mail-in ballots.

Judge blocks Montana ballot harvesting law at tribes' urging

A Montana judge has blocked new state restrictions on the collecting of others' ballots, a victory for Native American tribes that say their members rely on the help.

The law probably violates the tribal members' right to vote because it would make it especially difficult for them to make sure their own ballots got from reservations and other remote areas to election offices, District Judge Jessica Fehr of Yellowstone County said Tuesday in putting a hold on the requirements.

Her injunction, while not final, is nonetheless the latest voting rights victory for people in Indian Country, who say too many election rules disregard their special circumstances and amount to suppression. It's also the latest turn in the generally partisan battle over so-called ballot harvesting.

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A new report outlines numerous obstacles to voting faced by Native Americans. Sen. Jon Tester (right) is one of several politicians cited in the report who say Native voters were critical to their victories.

Electoral inequality for Native Americans detailed in expansive study

The title of an expansive new report on Native American voting rights, "Obstacles at Every Turn," is no exaggeration in light of the document's contents.

The report, written after nine public hearings over two years featuring 120 witnesses, presents a stark look at the barriers faced by the nearly 5 million American Indians of voting age. It also makes clear that many of them will be effectively disenfranchised if the country embraces voting by mail at the expense of in-person polling places.

"The first people on the land should not be the last to vote," concludes the study by the Native American Rights Fund, which advocates for better treatment for tribal members by the federal and state governments.

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The Campaign Legal Center has been fighting for Native American voting rights in North Dakota.

Time to close an ugly chapter of Native American voter suppression

Gaber is director of trial litigation for the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and Campbell is an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund.

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Montana has seven rural reservations, including the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. They have limited access to mail service, making it difficult to vote.

Native Americans punished by new Montana ballot rules, suit says

Montana's new restrictions on the handling of mail-in ballots illegally discriminate against Native Americans and will suppress their turnout this fall, the American Civil Liberties Union and five tribes alleged Thursday.

They filed a lawsuit asking a state court to strike down a measure approved by voters in 2018 and just now taking effect. They say new curbs on who may collect others' ballots, and how many, effectively disenfranchise Native Americans who live in remote areas without home mail delivery.

It is the newest front in the fight for voting rights across Indian Country, coming a month after the settlement of a legal battle allowing North Dakotans living on reservations to cast ballots even without complying with the state's restrictive voter ID law.

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