Tribal Leaders Push for Big Indian Voter Turnout, Rapid City Journal
In memory of Navajo Code Talker George Smith (1922-2012).
O’siyo. This year many Native American outreach programs and organizations nationwide are working hard to encourage Natives to vote. Teachers, community leaders, and parents are among the people canvassing schools, churches, and tribal communities explaining to its members the importance of voter participation.
“AlbuquerqueN.M. | A tribal newspaper in Arizona is publishing a detailed voter guide for the first time ever. A New Mexico pueblo is sending kindergartners home with get-out-the-vote buttons for their parents. Tribes in Wisconsin are reaching out to young adults with a Rock the Vote event.
Native American communities nationwide are working hard to tap about 3 million Native American voters, hoping to turn around low voter participation that has persisted in Indian Country for decades. The push is being headed by the National Congress of American Indians, the largest group representing Native Americans, which calls low turnout a “civic emergency” — fueled by everything from language barriers and vast distances between polling places to high unemployment and poverty… The NCAI and its partners are focusing on 18 states with high Indian populations, and their efforts are not without challenge…For example, in Alaska and Florida, tribal ID cards are not listed as acceptable forms of identification at the polls. In other states, address requirements pose difficulty for those tribal communities that lack street addresses.
In Montana, Indians from the remote Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations sought an emergency order for satellite voting on reservations, arguing that the long distance they must travel to vote early, or register late, puts them at a disadvantage compared with white voters. A federal judge denied their request on Tuesday. The NCAI is pushing this year for the “largest Native vote in history,” but experts agree achieving a high turnout will be difficult…Get-out-the-vote campaigns on reservations are particularly time-consuming, he said, because some homes may have no Internet service — or even television.
There also are cultural barriers and the tribes’ tumultuous history with the federal government. Still, tribal leaders hope this momentum will energize their people on Election Day. President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are locked in a tight battle for the White House, and in some states, a few votes could give either candidate the margin of victory.
“I think the stakes are high,” said Laurie Weahkee, executive director of the Native American Voters Alliance, which has been canvassing pueblos, or tribal communities, in the Albuquerque area and talking to prospective voters on the Navajo Nation, which spans parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah….Tribes in Wisconsin came together Tuesday evening for a Rock the Vote event in Green Bay. At Santa Clara Pueblo in northern New Mexico, tribal members held a debate-watching party and have been going door-to-door to encourage neighbors to vote. More than five dozen buttons reading Every Native vote counts were sent home with kindergartners and preschoolers.”
Read this informative article in its entirety. Kudos to all of the Native people responsible for helping, and teaching, community members the value of participating in important elections.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012…Vote!
“I think people are really paying attention…They’re asking: ‘What do these elections mean to us? What does this mean for me as a working person? What does this mean for my family?” ~ Laurie Weahkee~ Executive Director of NAVA