New task force aims to boost voter registration

Noel Lyn Smith
New Mexico News

FARMINGTON — New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver has formed a task force to increase voter participation among Native Americans.

"It's imperative that we do all we can to register New Mexico Native Americans to vote, to educate them about the timing of elections and what's on the ballot, and to get them to the polls to vote," Toulouse Oliver said in a press release from her office.

The secretary, who announced the task force on April 21 at the Navajo Voters Coalition conference in Window Rock, Ariz., added that she is confident members will generate new and creative ways to engage Native Americans.

Deputy Secretary of State John Blair said on Monday that details regarding the task force's membership, application process and operational cost remain under development.

He added the secretary wants to make sure Native Americans have access to information about voter registration, candidate information and education.

"She's a big believer in the more people vote in an election, it's better," Blair said.

The release states the task force will include representatives from the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Tribe, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe,  the nineteen pueblos and a resident from an urban native community.

Blair reiterated Toulouse Oliver's interest in developing the task force's membership in a way that represents the tribes and pueblos in the state.

According to the San Juan County Clerk's office, there are 15,719 registered voters in communities on the Navajo Nation.

County Clerk Tanya Shelby said voter registration information does not list details regarding ethnicity.

Navajo Voters Coalition President Anthony Allison said while the alliance appreciates Toulouse Oliver's decision, they cannot back the initiative until further details are released.

"People need more education on their rights and about the people they vote for," Allison said on Monday.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.