Elections 2012: Native Voter Drive Kicks Off This Week

Mark Trahant
9/24/12

More than 35,000 people in 130 communities across the country are participating in Native Vote Action Week beginning today. Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day.

“Now is a crucial time for Indian country to work together to get Native Voters registered and ready to go to make our voice heard on November 6th as we participate in national and state elections,” National Congress of American Indians President Jefferson Keel said. Native Vote Action Week is a response to Keel’s call during the January 2012 State of Indian Nations, for the largest Native voter turnout in history. “The Native vote counts for our people, our rights, and our culture. We must raise our voice and remember, that every Native vote counts.”

Native Vote Booths

Earlier this year NCAI declared “a civic emergency” because of the low rates of voting participation by American Indians and Alaska Natives. NCAI said only two out of every five eligible voters are not registered – some 1 million eligible voters were unregistered.

Native Vote events this week include registration drives at tribal colleges, tribal offices and health centers.

One partner in the Native Vote campaign is TurboVote. There is a voter registration wizard on the Native Vote Facebook page. The idea is to “make voting by mail as easy as renting a DVD from Netflix. Or sign up at the turbovote.org and never miss another election!”

The software works as promised. It’s no different than signing up for Netflix or any other commercial account. The next step is that would-be-voters will get a registration form in the mail along with a prepaid envelope. Sign and you’re done.

It’s the same for voting. Once registered another form will be sent asking for an absentee ballot. Sign it, send it off in a pre-printed, stamped envelope and you’re done.

E-mails, texts and other reminders will be sent to make sure that ballot gets in the mail.

This is important because early voting is one key to improved participation at the voting booth. People across the country are voting this week either through early voting or absentee. (The most common is what’s called a “no excuse absentee vote.” You can request a ballot by mail or show up at a county office and vote early.) By Election Day on November 6, about half the country is likely to have already voted.

These voter outreach efforts are non-partisan in nature.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is: marktrahant@thecedarsgroup.org.

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