With less than a month away from the 2018 midterm election, the New Mexico Secretary of State Office (SOS) has released a Native American voting guide for indigenous communities.

The voting guide includes information about candidates running for office and ballot listings.

On Oct. 9, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver said in a statement that this guide is the “first-of-its-kind.”

“These guides will provide greater access to election information to our tribal communities, which leads to more participation in the democratic process among Native Americans,” Oliver wrote.

According to the statement, the voting guide was produced through a joint effort by the League of Women’s Voters and the Native American Voting Task Force (NAVTF). Within voting precincts in tribal communities, the guide will also provide access to language translation services.

To further ensure comprehension, Alex Curtas — the communications director for the SOS — said on Election Day, a radio broadcast will be broadcasting most of the voting guide in nine different languages in tribal communities.

“The radio ads are statutorily mandated and they have done that in the past for previous elections,” Curtas said.

According to a survey conducted by the Native American Voting Rights Coalition in 2018, the survey found that a significant amount of Native Americans from the Navajo Nation in New Mexico reported issues of understanding the ballot.

“However, even small percentages of language-challenged voters can be significant in close
elections,” the survey said.

The survey also cited issues with voter registration in indigenous communities in New Mexico.

“In most rural communities, traveling distances can create difficulty for residents trying to conduct official business or, in this case, registering and voting,” the survey said — 10 percent of potential, unregistered voters in the Land of Enchantment said long distances prevented them from registering.

Curtas said the SOS and the NAVTF aimed to increase electoral participation in indigenous communities through community outreach and research.

“The voting guide is part of those recommendations that native communities need better access to simple electoral information — just where to vote, how to get registered, who’s on the ballot,” Curtas said. “It seems basic, but it’s really important for these communities to get more access to just the information they need in order to vote.”

Increasing electoral participation to native communities began in 1978, according to the SOS website. Interpreters translated state election documents and informed tribal members about voter information and requirements to seek office.

Now the participation project involves “11 New Mexico counties with substantial Native American populations: Bernalillo; Cibola; McKinley; Otero; Rio Arriba; Sandoval; San Juan; Santa Fe; Socorro; Taos; and Valencia.”

Early voting starts on Oct. 20 and continues through Nov. 3. On Nov. 4 and 5, voters will not be able to cast ballots until Election Day on Nov. 6. Absentee ballots can still be cast during this time.

For more information about polling locations and important dates leading up to the election, go to the Secretary of State’s website.

Anthony Jackson is a freelance reporter with the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @TonyAnjackson.