What is Native Vote?
Native Vote is a nonpartisan campaign initiated by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). It is designed to encourage American Indian and Alaska Native people to exercise their right to vote. With the heightened political participation of Native people, Indian Country has become an increasingly powerful voting bloc. In recent years, the Native vote has been publicly acknowledged as making a visible difference in national, state, and local elections.
The Native Vote campaign is working closely with regional organizations, tribal governments, and urban Indian centers to create a strong and permanent infrastructure for election training that highlights voter registration, election protection policies, and Native mobilization.
1. Voter Registration and Get‐Out‐The‐Native‐Vote (GOTNV). NCAI recognizes that a strong grassroots effort is needed; and encourages all tribes, regional, and inter‐tribal organizations to have a Native Vote coordinator. There is a need to get the community mobilized early, starting with registration, as Native Americans are unregistered at higher rates than other communities. To mobilize and assist tribes with the upcoming elections, Native Vote is providing toolkits, updating the Native Vote webpage, distributing e‐newsletters and promotional items, creating Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and hosting telephone conferences, webinars, and trainings.
2. Election Protection. It is critical for voters to understand their rights, especially for those who do not actively participate in the political process. In collaboration with Election Protection coordinators, Native Vote ensures that every qualified voter has the opportunity to cast a ballot on Election Day. NCAI works with Native lawyers locally and nationally to assist with the Election Protection component of this campaign. In addition, NCAI is planning to distribute materials to assist all Native Americans in knowing their voting rights. This applies especially in response to
new voter identification laws.
3. Education. This strategy is comprised of a three pieces; 1) Assisting Native voters to be educated on the candidates and ballot measures, 2) Educating the candidates on the issues Indian Country cares about and encourage them to develop Native policy platforms, and 3) Encouraging more Native people to run for offices. Native Vote will be preparing materials to aid in this effort, working with regional organizations and other non‐profits to increase voter awareness and education efforts.
4. Data Collection: Measuring the Impact of Native Vote. Data on voter registration and voter turnout for American Indian and Alaska Native people has historically been complex and incomplete. During the 2008 election NCAI attempted to measure data on Native voter registration and voting turnout, and uncovered a host of methodological issues. It is NCAI’s intention for the 2012 cycle to gather ideas on what we can accurately collect data on and what sources are available to Indian Country. We will share data collection and data tools with tribal leaders to encourage them to utilize these methods. Understanding the voting patterns of Native people is key to understanding the impact of Native Vote and better streamlining future efforts.