Angela Willeford works with Arizona’s Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community to get out the Native vote.
The 2018 midterm election has already moved beyond slogans and planning. Now it’s all about getting out the vote.
This is Trahant Reports.
Angela Willeford works with the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona. She’s gearing up for a voter turnout drive that includes a phone bank with a list of registered voters. When the call comes in “don’t forget to vote” the voice on the other end of the line is often a friend or relative. “It’s good to hear from someone you know,” she said.
Willeford spoke at a National Congress of American Indians workshop on Native Vote. She said early phone calls are important because they can identify problems with registration when there is still time to fix it. For example in Arizona a voter’s ID, tribal or state, must exactly match the voter registration roll.
The community also publishes a voter guide and educates tribal citizens about the importance of showing up.
We need you to vote is a consistent message from the tribe. And it’s a reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that tribal citizens were not allowed to vote in Arizona. Before 1965 tribal members were blocked from voting under state law.
Across the country we already know a few things about the 2018 midterm election: Turnout will be higher than normal and a lot of people are voting early.
Early voting has become popular with 37 states offering some form of ballot access before Election Day.
“Usage of early voting has recently surged among traditionally underrepresented voters,” reports Demos. “The 2008 election marked a dramatic increase in early in-person voting among African American and Latino voters. And in Florida, where approximately 50 percent of ballots were cast early in 2012, African-American usage of early in-person voting has exceeded White usage in four of the five most recent federal elections. Research suggests that turnout increases are maximized when early voting is combined with Same Day Registration.”
That best practice often fails to include Indian Country. According to the Native Vote project, “compared to other voters, many Native people have less access to early voting and voter registration.”
Some 8 million people have already voted — more than in previous election cycles at this point.
The United States has a lower voting participation rate than other countries. In presidential elections only about 60 percent of those who register, vote. In midterm elections, like this one, it’s only about 40 percent.
The interesting thing here for Indian Country. A low turnout election cycle can mean more influence for groups that do come out and vote. The Native vote really could decide an election — and has in the past.
I am Mark Trahant