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Navajo Voting Rights Advocate, Renowned Weaver Agnes Laughter Dies

Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Renowned Navajo weaver and voting rights advocate Agnes Laughter has died. Born in 1932, she helped challenge the constitutionality of Arizona’s in-person voting procedures and restrictive ID requirements. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Laughter was part of a lawsuit that led to the U.S. Department of Justice expanding the list of documents that can serve as tribal identification at polling places. It was in response to Proposition 200, Arizona’s 2004 voter-approved measure mainly aimed at preventing undocumented migrants from voting and receiving public benefits. But since Laughter lacked official identification, she was denied the right to vote.

According to the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission, 60% of Navajo voters have trouble voting. Since many elders lack official identification, they frequently cast provisional ballots, which are often left uncounted. Laughter was eventually given the Frank Harrison and Harry Austin Citizenship Award in recognition of her work to strengthen voting rights.

She was a renowned weaver from Chilchinbeto. Laughter grew up in a hogan in the 1930s and '40s and eventually helped create one of the community’s largest and most famous rugs.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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