Native American Health Center is on day 3 of our Native Vote Action Week Events 2012! Rockin' the Native Vote in California's Bay Area in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, and Sacramento.

Elections 2012: Voter Registration Drive and the Social Media Space

Mark Trahant

A field organizer for Rock the Vote posted on her Facebook page that the group’s early count was at 55,000 registered voters, including those that courted American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“Great registration day yesterday,” Jaynie Parrish from Arizona posted. She said all the numbers haven’t been reported yet and “I know 3 of the Native events registered 110. Hope you all had some successful events. Great job volunteers!”

On its blog, Rock the Vote said, the first ever National Voter Registration Day featured “concerts, events, videos, and new technologies, all with the goal of registering more voters than have ever been registered to vote in a single day.”

Today Rock the Vote featured a Funny or Die video with various celebrities saying why the vote (in words that you cannot say on television.)

On Facebook, Rock the Native Vote and Native Vote both showed many posts from the week’s events. Colleges, community people and clinics showed pictures of people wearing Native vote T-shirts, buttons, and ink on their purple ink on their fingers, the universal metaphor for voting.

Pictures of registration from Indian Country were from across the country, Alaska, Arizona, Oklahoma, and California.

What’s interesting is the mix between on-the-ground community events and social media. There are postings of what others are doing, creating an online community. The journal Nature recently reported that social media users look to their friends when voting.

How big a deal is Facebook? “About 340,000 extra people turned out to vote in the 2010 U.S. congressional elections because of a single election-day Facebook message, estimate researchers who ran an experiment involving 61 million users of the social network,” the journal said. “Our study shows that the truth is somewhere in between: online networks are powerful ... but it is those real-world ties that we have always had that are making a difference,” said James Fowler, a political scientist who led the study team

Another voter registration effort comes from the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indian Health Board (meeting this week in Denver). A report last summer from Demos recommended registering Native Americans at Indian Health Service clinics.

“This week is a great opportunity to remind the Native Vote community of the potential impact of voter registration at Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities. Over 1.9 million Native people are served by IHS facilities and the vision of IHS to serve as community wellness centers that facilitate citizen access to the tools of democracy is a very attainable goal,” NCAI said on the Native Vote web page. “Some IHS facilities have already begun the process of incorporating voter registration in their business processes, seeing it as the most sustainable and comprehensive route to offering civic engagement opportunities to their patients.”

NCAI said for IHS to implement this “essential tool” it is important that it be a non-partisan effort because “as long as the voter registration activities do not compromise patient care and occur in neutral, publicly accessible spaces. Some examples of good places to allow non-partisan voter registration activities by community groups are lobbies, entryways, and parking lots.”

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:

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