ICT: The Native American vote could be significant

Friday, August 3, 2018

Indian Country Today reported that with less than 100 days until Election Day, there are more stories about candidates, about registration drives and about races where the Native vote can make a difference. The national media has caught on to this, with stories in The New York Times, National Public Radio, and Teen Vogue.

For Native American women running for office, this has already been an historic election cycle with top-tier candidates for Congress, statewide office, legislatures and even more running for corporation commissions, county offices and city posts.

But the question for Native American voters is always 'who will turn out to vote?' Previously Native people turned out and helped elect Barack Obama. Eight years later, not so much, and Donald J. Trump won the presidency while losing the popular vote. It’s true that a lot of people just don’t vote.

According to a 2012 study by Demos, a public policy organization, “American Indians and Alaska Natives voting rates are among the lowest of all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Almost two out of five eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives are not registered to vote. Even among registered American Indians and Alaska Natives, the turnout rate is 5 to 14 percentage points lower than that of many of the registered voters of other racial and ethnic groups.”

Arizona scholars see non-voting as a crisis. A report this month by Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute for Public Policy found that 45 percent of registered and other voting-age individuals did not cast ballots in the last election. “Voter participation has been eroding for years,” the report said. “Perhaps this explains why no full alarm has been sounded, even though it could be argued that today, ‘voters don’t determine elections, non-voters do.’”

READ: Native candidates are rewriting history