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Interior Secretary announces SIPI may become a new voter registration agency

Deb Haaland
Evan Vucci/AP
FILE - In this April 23, 2021 photo, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks during a news briefing at the White House in Washington. Secretary Haaland vowed on her first day on the job to ensure Native American tribes have opportunities to speak with her and the agencies she oversees. Native American and Alaska Native groups are seeing change under Haaland but some remain frustrated with the pace of action. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, also known as SIPI, celebrated its 50th anniversary Tuesday with a visit by U.S. Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland. She reflected on the achievements of the community college and how her agency is working to designate it as a new voter registration agency.

Haaland said SIPI is a leader in Indian education and an integral place for Indigenous students.

When we feel we are part of a community, we see why it is so important to leave the ladder down behind us for the next generation to climb,” she told the crowd.

The visit coincided with National Voter Registration Day and Haaland said the new designation will help expand voting access for enrolled students and community members.

“No matter who you vote for the act of voting, standing up and saying I will be counted, it matters,” Haaland said.

The Interior Department is working to designate SIPI and Haskell Indian University in Kansas as voter registration agencies.

Under the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, voter registration agencies distribute voter registration applications, offer assistance for applicants completing these forms, and send completed applications to state election officials.

Last year President Joe Biden directed the head of each federal agency to evaluate ways to encourage voter registration.

This move by Interior to designate SIPI and Haskell follows the March release of the White House’s Native American Voting Rights Report, which found barriers to Native people voting and made recommendations for removing those barriers.

Do you have a question about how to participate in the November elections? KUNM has partnered with America Amplified to answer your questions. Find the form online at KUNM.org

Megan has been a journalist for 25 years and worked at business weeklies in San Antonio, New Orleans and Albuquerque. She first came to KUNM as a phone volunteer on the pledge drive in 2005. That led to volunteering on Women’s Focus, Weekend Edition and the Global Music Show. She was then hired as Morning Edition host in 2015, then the All Things Considered host in 2018. Megan was hired as News Director in 2021.
Jeanette DeDios is from the Jicarilla Apache and Diné Nations and grew up in Albuquerque, NM. She recently graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2022 where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism, English and Film. She’s currently a part of the Local News Fund Fellowship where she will be working with KUNM-FM and NMPBS during her 9-month fellowship where she will gain hands-on newsroom experience. Jeanette can be contacted at jeanettededios@kunm.org or via Twitter @JeanetteDeDios.
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