Commentary

Kyrsten Sinema pursues ‘false bipartisanship’ that endangers the rights of Indigenous Arizonans

November 1, 2021 12:39 pm
Sinema protest

Community organizations part of the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster gathered outside of Sen. Kysten Sinema’s office in Phoenix on Tuesday, June 22, 2021 to pressure the Congresswoman to support ending the filibuster. Phoenix police arrested 10 people at the rally who staged a sit-in. Photo by Laura Gómez | Arizona Mirror

During last year’s vital election season, I worked with the Navajo community to increase voter turnout and ensure that our voices were heard at the polls. Thanks to tireless organizing efforts across the country, the Navajo Nation and millions of Black, Brown and Indigenous voters helped deliver Democrats the House, White House, and Senate, believing the people we voted into office would fight for our communities.

However, a year later, we are still waiting for campaign promises to be fulfilled. Our broken Senate is in a never-ending gridlock on issues ranging from our precious right to vote to much-needed infrastructure investments – both issues that are deeply important to me and Native American communities across Arizona.

Unfortunately, it is Arizona’s own Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and her misguided support of the Jim Crow filibuster that is blocking meaningful legislation on these issues.

Will Kyrsten Sinema stand up for her constituents or to continue siding with Republicans who are using every tool at their disposal – especially the Jim Crow filibuster – to deny us our rights?

– Allie Young

This April, Sinema nominated me for the Service Act Award for my work turning out Native American voters in Arizona. The nomination acknowledged the power of organizing and the large impact Native American voters had on the 2020 election – which makes her support of the filibuster all the more confounding and disheartening. A Jim Crow relic used for 200 years to block social justice and civil rights bills, the filibuster is now preventing vital voting rights legislation, such as the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Native American Voting Rights Act, from being passed. These bills would benefit Black, Brown and Indigenous voters across the country, including the 22 federally recognized tribes across Arizona whose voting rights are currently being attacked.

This year alone, over 400 voter suppression bills were introduced by state lawmakers across the country. As of May, 22 laws were introduced in Arizona alone. Three of the laws have been fully enacted, and the Supreme Court upheld provisions in these laws that restricted how ballots can be cast – a decision that “gutted most of what remains of the landmark Voting Rights Act.” 

 

Supreme Court upholds Arizona ban on early ballot collecting

The Arizona voting laws directly target Native American voters. Many tribal citizens live in areas that are miles away from assigned polling places, meaning they often place their votes at the most convenient polling locations or rely on organizers to deliver their ballots. However, the provisions upheld by the Supreme Court ban the collection of absentee ballots by anyone who is not a family member or caregiver. They also give polling locations the power to throw out ballots cast at “wrong” precincts.

Sinema insisted that the Supreme Court’s decision “hurts Arizonans ability to access the ballot box” and reiterated her support for federal voting rights bills. However, she refuses to take responsibility for the fact that, as long as she continues to protect the filibuster, her words are empty — and the federal voting rights bills she claims to support have no chance of being signed into law.

Arizona Republicans are not only blocking our right to cast a ballot – they are gerrymandering districts to sway elections in their favor. If they are successful, the Navajo Nation’s district could be redrawn, resulting in more Republican votes being pulled into our district and our political voices being stifled. Navajo Nation is vast, over 27,000 square miles, and we are the first peoples of this land. Shifting our district lines simply to steal votes continues the painful history of displacing and disrespecting Native American communities.

If Kyrsten Sinema is truly serious about supporting her Native American constituents, she would put an end to these voter suppression methods once and for all: She would support the elimination of the filibuster.

But time and time again, she has chosen a false sense of bipartisanship over the good of the Arizonans who voted her into office. A year after the 2020 election, I find that many members of the Navajo community – the same people I worked so hard to engage and get to the polls – are growing weary. Young Native Americans did immense work to ensure that their voices were heard in 2020, but the longer Sinema allows the filibuster to block the rights of historically marginalized groups, the harder it will be to convince voters in my community that true change is possible.

Once again, they tell me, the system is working against us.

Still, even in the face of this broken system, I refuse to give up hope. In 2020, we saw that community organizing works, and we proved that the power of Black, Brown and Indigenous voters can never be underestimated. We will not stop organizing, and we will not stop making sure the Kyrsten Sinema hears our demands for passage of federal voting rights legislation.

Whether Black, Brown and Indigenous organizers in Arizona will be using our power to support Sinema all depends on her decision. Will she stand up for her constituents or to continue siding with Republicans who are using every tool at their disposal – especially the Jim Crow filibuster – to deny us our rights?

We will continue to do our part, Senator Sinema. It’s time that you do yours.

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Allie Young
Allie Young

Allie Young is a citizen of the Navajo Nation, a Diné storyteller, activist and advocate for her community. In 2020, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema nominated Allie for a service award for her voter registration work in Navajo Nation.

MORE FROM AUTHOR