Gov. Jay Inlsee signs into law the Native American Voting Rights Act, which allows a non-traditional address to be used for voter registration for residents who live on reservations. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Gov. Jay Inlsee signs into law the Native American Voting Rights Act, which allows a non-traditional address to be used for voter registration for residents who live on reservations. Photo by Emma Epperly/WNPA Olympia News Bureau

Native American Voting Rights Act signed into law

Non-traditional addresses can be used for voter registration on tribal lands

By Emma Epperly, WNPA Olympia News Bureau

The Native American Voting Rights act was signed into law March 14 by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee at a widely attended ceremony.

The bill would allow the residential address portion of a voter registration form to be filled out with a nontraditional address.

The bill modifies the minimum information required for voter registration under state law, to allow for “unmarked homes” and “a nontraditional residential address may be used when a voter resides on an Indian reservation or on Indian lands.” The bill also allows for voters to list a building designated by the tribe in their precinct as their residential address, if need be.

“We believe these three steps will allow tribal members to help us form a more perfect union and make good decisions about our destiny,” said Inslee of the changes the bill makes.

The state House of Representatives passed an amended version of the bill with a 95-3 vote on March 5. House members voting against were Reps. Bob McCaslin, R- Spokane Valley, Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, and Matt Shea. R-Spokane Valley.

The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 6 with 34 in favor, 13 opposed, and two excused. All 13 senators in opposition were Republicans; however, Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, R- Ritzville, and other Republicans voted in support.

“This legislation provides us the opportunity to remove those barriers to be able to call to the Native Americans and tell them they matter,” said Rep. Debra Lekanoff, D-Bow. Lekanoff is the first Native American woman elected to the House and had previously worked for the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

“The excitement of an aunty going down to pick up her ballot with her little granddaughter and going to the kitchen table and filling it out and walking just another half a block and dropping it in a dropbox, on the reservation, in the middle of our America is wonderful for me,” said Lekanoff.

The passed amendment, proposed by Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, requires that a tribe’s ballot box must be accessible to the county auditor via a public road.

“We welcome everyone to participate in our electoral process,” Walsh said.

The House State Government and Tribal Relations Committee amended the bill to let tribes choose a building, which is not a ballot pickup location, to be used for mailing address purposes only. The amendment made other minor changes.

The underlying bill modifies the minimum information required for voter registration under state law to allow for “unmarked homes” and “a nontraditional residential address may be used when a voter resides on an Indian reservation or on Indian lands.”

With Inslee’s signature of the bill, the Native American Voting Rights Acts was the second bill signed into law in the 2019 session.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@bellevuereporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.bellevuereporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Northwest

UW doctor offers answers about COVID-19

Who should get tested? Who can get coronavirus? Staying at home key to stop spreading

Washington scrambles to boost supply of life-saving protective items for healthcare workers

State officials say they had to be “creative” to obtain protective equipment in global demand.

Gov. Jay Inslee discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s response during a press conference on Thursday, March 26. Screenshot
Inslee: Stay-at-home orders must continue to completely eliminate COVID-19

Slight decrease in rate of new coronavirus cases, but residents must continue to hunker down.

COVID-19 gathering restriction delays funerals

For one funeral home owner, the confusion came to a head after a recent service.

Legislators request unemployment assistance for independent contractors

Federal funds for hairdressers, high tech coders and others

Activists want rent, mortgage suspensions

Moratoriums on evictions won’t be enough, say some.

Governor: Stay at home — and that’s now an order

Jay Inslee on Monday took an aggressive new step to curb social interactions as coronavirus deaths rise.

Most Read