Jeanette Wolfley on Enfranchising Native American Voters

Jeanette Wolfley has posted “You Gotta Fight for the Right to Vote: Enfranchising Native American Voters,” forthcoming in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law.

Here is the abstract:

Five decades ago, the Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Since its passage, the Voting Right Act has created the opportunity to vote for many racial and language minorities across the country, and has survived many challenges until 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court issued two decisions involving voting rights in its 2012-2013 term. On June 25, 2013, in Shelby County v. Holder, a divided Supreme Court struck down Section 4 – a key provision of the 1965 Voting Right Act (VRA) – as unconstitutional. On June 17, 2013, one week before the Shelby County decision, the Court decided another voting rights challenge. In Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., the Court held that the federal National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) preempted Arizona’s requirement that voters provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. Certainly, this decision was not as symbolic as Shelby County, but nonetheless is significant for minority voters and voters in general. In the aftermath of Shelby County, many voting rights litigators and scholars are contemplating what the case means for the future of Black and Latino minority voting rights across the country. To date, however, scholars’ and practitioners’ reaction to and focus on the Shelby County decision has not considered or identified its impact on Indian voters or reservation residents. Accordingly, this Article seeks to fill the void by examining the Shelby County and Inter Tribal Council decisions and provides some insight and effective responses with regard to their impacts on Native American voters across Indian country.

New Scholarship Arguing PL 280 is Unconstitutional

Kyle Conway has published “Inherently or Exclusively Federal: Constitutional Preemption and the Relationship Between Public Law 280 and Federalism” in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law (SSRN link). Here is the abstract:

The basic principles of Indian-law jurisprudence often appear disconnected with basic principles of American constitutional law. Indian law, however, has a special significance to important issues of state and federal power. This Article seeks to build on the work of prior scholars who have sought to connect Indian law to American constitutional values.

Public Law 280 is a federal law that gives states control over certain aspects of Indian affairs that were traditionally within the scope of the federal government. This Article argues that Public Law 280 is unconstitutional under a doctrine of constitutional preemption. Constitutional preemption is grounded in the system of overlapping sovereignty that forms the structure of the Constitution and should be understood as prohibiting the federal government from delegating inherently and exclusively federal powers to the states. The power to manage Indian affairs is entrusted exclusively to the federal government, and Congress cannot constitutionally delegate it to the states.

The constitutional difficulties raised by Public Law 280 are particularly relevant in an era when issues of federalism are at the forefront of legal discussion. It is often accepted that courts may limit the federal government’s authority to exercise powers reserved to the states, but we should also take seriously the idea that courts may limit the states’ authority to exercise powers reserved to the federal government.