This article explores the many forms of discrimination that have persisted in Alaska, the resulting first generation voting barriers faced by Alaska Native voters, and the two contested lawsuits it took to attain a measure of equality for those voters in four regions of Alaska: Nick v. Bethel and Toyukak v. Treadwell. In the end, the court’s decision in Toyukak came down to a comparison of just two pieces of evidence: (1) the Official Election Pamphlet that English-speaking voters received that was often more than 100 pages long; and (2) the single sheet of paper that Alaska Native language speakers received, containing only the date, time, and location of the election, along with a notice that they could request language assistance. Those two pieces of evidence, when set side by side, showed the fundamental unequal access to the ballot. The lessons learned from Nick and Toyukak detailed below are similarly simple: (1) first generation voting barriers still exist in the United States; and (2) Section 203 of the VRA does not permit American Indian and Alaska Native language speaking voters to receive less information than their English-speaking counterparts. The voters in these cases had been entitled to equality for 40 years, but they had to fight for nearly a decade in two federal court cases to get it.
James T. Tucker, Natalie A. Landreth & Erin Dougherty Lynch,
“Why Should I Go Vote Without Understanding What I Am Going to Vote For?” The Impact of First Generation Voting Barriers on Alaska Natives,
Mich. J. Race & L.
Available at: https://repository.law.umich.edu/mjrl/vol22/iss2/5