Rural mail service on reservations questions whether Native Americans have equal access to voting opportunities

PHOENIX — Members of the Navajo Nation are asking a federal judge to require the state to count mail-in ballots from voters on all the state’s reservations that are not received until after Election Day.

The lawsuit filed in federal court says a study of mail service on the remote reservation means that many tribal members who request early ballots won’t receive them on time to mark them and mail them back to county election offices to meet the deadline. So it asks that all ballots postmarked by 7 p.m. on Election Day from any reservation address be counted if they are received within 10 days of the election.

Hobbs told Capitol Media Services she is powerless to do anything about it.

“The deadline is set by state law,’’ she said.

Hobbs said that’s why she had been trying to do outreach to explain the deadlines and options for returning ballots, especially to residents of areas “that don’t have consistent postal service.’’

But O.J. Seamans, co-director of Four Directions, a Native American organization which helped craft the lawsuit, said that state laws have to fall if they violate federal statutes and constitutional requirements. And that is exactly what a federal judge is being asked to rule here.

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