System could help tribal members past – one – voter registration hurdle

WASHINGTON – Advocates said a new policy that lets Arizona residents without traditional street addresses register to vote online is not perfect – but it’s a vast improvement over the old process.

“It’s critical,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said of the change this month by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. “This is a very important election, I think, across the country, and we want our votes to be counted.”

The change allows prospective voters with nontraditional addresses to still register online with the use of “plus codes” – latitude- and longitude-based location codes that can be used to identify homes without street addresses.

Before the change, Arizona voters could not register online with nontraditional addresses like post office boxes or general-delivery addresses. That disproportionately affected rural tribal communities in Arizona, where just 18 percent of Native Americans have home mail delivery, according to a 2020 Native American Rights Fund report.

Nez said last week that a “super-majority of our Navajo people utilize the post offices to get their mail. There’s no residential addresses, no street addresses here.”

The new policy was announced Sept. 4 by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, whose “office is continually working to ensure a more inclusive process,” a spokeswoman said.

Alex Gulotta, Arizona state director for All Voting is Local, said Hobbs “should be congratulated because, this late in the cycle, this close to the deadline, they are implementing a fix that … will allow people with nonstandard addresses to access a system they haven’t been able to access.”

Hobbs’ office said it had already successfully processed registrations with non-standard addresses and plus codes in the days after the change.

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