2020 Native Vote tour visits Tulalip

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Native Vote is a nonpartisan campaign initiated by the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI). It is designed to encourage Native Americans throughout the nation to exercise their inherent 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 pivotal difference in national, state, and local elections.

The ability to make such a pivotal difference is 100% reliant on you, the voter. Historically, the turnout rate of registered Native voters is 5 to 14 percentage points lower than the rate of many other racial and ethnic groups. Add in the fact that nationwide a whopping 34% of eligible Native voters are not registered to vote, according to the NCAI, and the need to empower the entire electorate to register and cast their ballot is a clear priority.

Native Vote’s admirable Rez-to-Rez tour intends to fulfill that priority in Washington State by going directly to Native voters on their reservations, speaking truth to power on issues that impact our people, while encouraging each tribal citizen to vote. The Rez-to-Rez tour visited Tulalip on Tuesday, March 3.

“I’m honored to be here with you all on Tulalip land,” said Larry Cordier (Lakota), coordinated campaign tribal organizer. “It is critical that we get together, register to vote, and let our voice be heard by casting our ballot. Your vote is guaranteed to you by the U.S. Constitution. As treaty tribes, we have joined the United States in citizenship. Our men and women have defended this country. No one has to set that table for us. We did that with our veterans.

“The chiefs negotiated those treaties and it’s our responsibility to make sure those Treaty Rights endure,” continued Larry. “In all my travels I’ve heard so many people say, ‘Why should I vote? My vote doesn’t count.’ But if all those people got out and registered, and cast their ballot, we would have this country exactly where it needs to be. We need everyone because everyone counts. So let’s mobilize and make them feel our united power.”

Larry Cordier, coordinated campaign tribal organizer.

During the two-hour visit, engaged citizens were welcome to ask questions about candidates, register if they weren’t already, shown how to update their mailing address to insure arrival of voting documents, speak with 2020 Census representatives, and, if they were ready, cast their Washington State primary ballot.

“I saw the advertisement for this event in the Tulalip newsletter and was interested in finding out more about the presidential candidates,” shared tribal elder Joyce Alexander (Haida). “I haven’t decided who I will be voting for yet, but leaning between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden.

“As a Native American citizen, I’m always curious about how any politician or political candidate feels about Native Americans. [Their platform] affects us and our issues should matter to them.”

According to the U.S. Census, Native Americans have one of the youngest populations of any racial/ethnic group in the United States, with those under the age of 25 making up about 40% of the total Native population. Every four years, about half a million Native young people turn 18-years-old and become eligible to vote. This provides an opportunity to engage almost one in ten Native people as new voters.

In order to maximize the Native vote, it is critical that Native citizens become educated in the political process in order to actively participate in tribal, local, state, and national elections. It’s not only the U.S. President and Congress, but state governors and county and local elected officials who make important policy decisions that affect the everyday lives of Native peoples. Increasing the Native vote and in turn our electorate’s participation in non-tribal elections will lead to better responsiveness to the needs of tribal communities across the nation.

“One of the beautiful things about voting is it is open and accessible to everyone. And every vote matters,” explained Theresa Sheldon (Tulalip), Native American political director for the Democratic National Committee (DNC). “Please know that it’s not too late for people to register to vote. There is a great online resource iWillVote.com 

“Anyone can visit that site to register, check if you are registered, and/or update your mailing address. It’s so important to know that if we want to take back the white house, then we have to show up and vote. Please talk to your friends, your family and encourage them to get their ballot in. Sooner is better. Don’t wait until the last minute,” encouraged Theresa.

Native Vote Counts More in ’14 According to the Math



Mark Trahant, 9/8/14, Indian Country Today


So what if you had more votes than everyone else? What if your vote counted more? Would you?

Well, on Tuesday the primary season ends with elections in the Northeast. And in one of those states — New York — a candidate for governor, is illustrating exactly that extra voting power. It’s what could happen with Native American voters in 2014.

Zephyr Teachout is running a rag-tag campaign against the machine of incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. She insists that she’s going to win. On Saturday she told MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki that her route to victory will be the “miniscule” turnout in the primary. She said she will win the primary with 300,000 to 350,000 votes. In the last general election, Cuomo earned nearly 3 million votes.

Think of that: A primary vote is worth roughly 10 times that of a general election ballot. It’s because turnout is so low.


Mark Trahant
Mark Trahant


Remember Eric Cantor? The former House majority leader was defeated by primary challenger David Brat. Brat only won 36,110 votes — less than five percent of that district’s voters.

Low-turnout elections, whether primary or the general, favor the few, the organized, and, perhaps, Native voters.

How can that be? Let’s play with some numbers.

We know that New Mexico has the highest registration rate for Native American voters at 77 percent. That’s step one. And what if that were the standard? What if three-quarters of all eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives were registered to vote?

In Alaska, for example, the total registration for white voters is 71.1 percent, or roughly 362,000 people (figures from the Voter Elections Project and National Commission on Voting Rights.) Alaska Natives could be at least 17.1 percent of that or 87,210 votes. But current estimates are far below that — as low as 43,605.

So if we use New Mexico as the standard? Then the potential vote of Alaska Natives increases by at least 67,238, a difference of nearly 24,000 registered voters.

In a low turnout election, as 2014 is likely to be, that’s a pool of voters that every candidate would want to woo. (Remember it only took some 36,000 votes to knock off the next Speaker of the House, Rep. Cantor.)

Of course that’s just registration numbers. Step one. But the deadline for that first step is coming up across the country. Most states require registration 30 days before Election Day.

One phrase I’ve used a lot in this piece is “at least.” Let me explain. All of the numbers I am using are not precise and they’re based on elections past. But every year there is a growing number of first-time voters.

This is Indian country’s greatest advantage. Here are six more numbers to think about: 18, 11 and 19. And, 15, 23, and 16.

In 2008, when Barack Obama was first on the ballot, people 18 to 29 accounted for 18 percent of the electorate. Then, two years later, that same group voted in smaller numbers and only were 11 percent of the total. Then, two years ago, the young voter was back and it grew to 19 percent of the pie. On the other hand, older voters, 65 and older, were 15 percent of the total in 2008, rose to 23 percent in 2010 and dropped again to 16 percent in 2012. Older voters are reliable and show up. Younger voters not so much.

Indian country has the youngest population in America. Our percentage of potential young voters is growing faster than the population.

There are already success stories to shout out. In New Mexico and Montana, young Native American men, between 18 and 24, are registered at the highest rate of all Native American voters (just shy of 9-out-of-10.)

The whole premise of registering Native Americans to vote is simple, so that we can have a fair say in how this country is run and to better shape programs from health to education that determine our future.

A fair say? Pfffft. For Indian country the election of 2014 is about having a disproportionate say. Our votes will count more this time around. So will we?

Mark Trahant holds the Atwood Chair at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. For up-to-the-minute posts, download the free Trahant Reports app for your smart phone or tablet.


Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/09/08/native-vote-counts-more-14-according-math-156780

Every Native Vote Counts, vote in the Snohomish County primary



Every Native vote counts! Don’t forget to vote in the Snohomish County primary by Tuesday August 5th. You have until 8 p.m. to cast your vote. It is an important mid-term election year! If you did not received your ballot please visit: www.sos.wa.gov/elections/myvote/ or call 425-388-344.

The Tulalip Tribes supports the following:

Federal Partisan Office, US Representative Congressional District 2
Rick Larsen

Legislative Partisan Office, 38th District Senator
John McCoy

38th District Representative POS 2
June Robinson

County Executive Partisan Office, County Executive
Mike Sells

County Partisan Office, County Executive
John Lovick

County Partisan Office, Prosecuting Attorney
Mark Roe

Federal judge dismisses SD early voting lawsuit




AUGUST 6, 2013


PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to ensure that residents of part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have the same access to early voting as people in other South Dakota counties.

U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier dismissed the lawsuit after finding that state and local officials have agreed to provide an in-person absentee voting station in Shannon County for the 2014, 2016 and 2018 election cycles.

The judge said she couldn’t proceed to consider the case because no one knows whether election laws or other conditions will change after the 2018 election.

Shannon County, which is part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has no courthouse, and it contracts with nearby Fall River County for some services, including elections. Twenty-five residents of Shannon County filed a lawsuit in early 2012 seeking to get the same 46 days of early voting as residents of other counties. Without a voting station in Shannon County, county residents would have had to travel nearly an hour or more to cast in-person absentee ballots at the Fall River County courthouse.

After the lawsuit was filed, state and local officials set up an in-person absentee voting station in Pine Ridge village for last year’s primary and general election. Those officials later pledged to use federal voting assistance funds to operate an early voting station in Pine Ridge through the 2018 election.

Those who filed the lawsuit criticized the judge’s dismissal of their case, saying there is no guarantee that early voting will be offered in Pine Ridge after 2018. They sought a court order permanently ordering the state to provide early voting in Shannon County.

But Schreier noted that no one knows whether election laws will change by 2020, whether federal funding will continue to be available for the early voting station, or whether Shannon County will continue contracting with Fall River County for election services. In addition, there is no substantial proof of impending harm to Shannon County voters, she said.

“For the court to adjudicate this claim now would amount to an advisory opinion based on assumptions and speculation,” Schreier wrote.

Attorneys for the state and the Shannon County residents did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Indian voting centers not approved by state elections board

Jul. 31, 2013

Jonathan Ellis Argus Leader.com

The South Dakota Board of Elections on Wednesday declined to endorse a proposal from an advocacy group that called for using federal funds to establish satellite voting centers in three predominantly Native American towns.

Four Directions Inc. of Mission requested that the board endorse its plan to use money from the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed after the contentious 2000 presidential election to modernize voting procedures and administration. The state has about $9 million remaining in HAVA funds, and for less than $50,000 an election, HAVA funds could be used to establish satellite voting centers in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson.

All three towns have larger populations than their respective county seats. Fort Thompson, for example, has a population of 1,375 people, while the county seat of Buffalo County, Gann Valley, has a population of 14. County seats, however, are the only places where people can cast in-person absentee ballots.

The group’s proposal called for setting up the satellite stations in the three towns 46 days before primary and general elections so that their operations would mirror election activities in the county seats. The towns are heavily Native American, with populations ranging from 89 percent to 97 percent.

The proposal also had the backing of the county governments as well as three tribes, the Cheyenne River, Crow Creek and Oglala Sioux tribes. OJ Semans, the executive director of Four Directions, and spokesman Bret Healy told the board that they think Secretary of State Jason Gant has the authority to use HAVA funds for the satellite offices.

“This is a very, very simple deal. You can either say yes, or either say no,” Semans told the seven-member board, which includes Gant.

Gant, however, insisted that before he could authorize HAVA funds for the satellite offices, he wanted approval from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which administers the HAVA process.

Wednesday’s meeting, which took place over a teleconference, was cut short when an automated operator announced the teleconference was coming to an end. Board member Linda Lea Viken insisted that the meeting continue.

Read more here.

Native American tribes’ lawsuit could decide who controls Senate in 2015

By Jordy Yager – 07/16/13

A high-profile lawsuit on the voting rights of Native Americans could help determine control of the Senate in the next Congress.

A group of 16 Native Americans, nine of whom are military veterans, is waging a protracted legal battle against Montana’s Democratic secretary of State and county administrators, arguing for improved access to voter registration sites.

The case will be significant for Democrats in 2014 as they vie to keep control of the upper chamber by holding retiring Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) seat. Republicans need to pick up six seats to win back control of the Senate.

The litigation is moving forward at the same time as a recent Supreme Court decision that no longer requires a number of jurisdictions to get advance federal permission in order to make changes to their election laws.

The three Montana counties now being sued have historically lost Section 2 Voting Rights Act cases. However, for the state’s overwhelmingly poor and geographically isolated Native Americans — who vote predominantly for Democrats — the Montana fight is deeply personal. Tribal leaders say it is an issue of fundamental fairness.

Image from Think Progress
Image from Think Progress

An estimated 50,000 Native Americans are eligible to vote in Montana. Many of them live on reservations throughout the sprawling 550-mile-wide state, which means driving more than 100 miles for some to reach polling sites established long before Native Americans got the right to vote.

It’s the distance equivalent of voters in Washington, D.C., having to drive to Gettysburg, Pa. and back to complete their late registration forms or cast early in-person absentee ballots.

If the state allowed more voting stations, known as satellite offices, on reservations, more Native Americans would have the ability to vote by a factor of 250 percent, a group supporting the lawsuit argues.

This group, which is providing strategic and financial support to the plaintiffs, includes Four Directions, a nationally known voting rights organization, and Tom Rodgers, the Native American lobbyist who blew the whistle on former lobbyist Jack Abramoff for charging Native American tribes exorbitant fees on lobbying.

Together, they have spent about $335,000 waging the legal battle, which began in the months leading up to the 2012 election. They have also offered to pay the cost of establishing the satellite offices, which could run up to $8,000 apiece for each location.

The Department of Justice, Montana tribal leaders, the ACLU and the National Congress of American Indians have all backed the plaintiffs in the legal dispute.

The origin of the lawsuit began when Rodgers, a member of Montana’s Blackfeet tribe, received a phone call that U.S. Army Spc. Antonio Burnside, a fellow Blackfeet member whose tribal name was Many Hides, was killed last year in combat on Good Friday in Afghanistan.

In late April 2012, after raising the money to help celebrate the soldier’s life, Rodgers said a feeling of rage overcame him.

He noted that Native Americans have the highest percentage of military enlistees of any ethnic group.

“Some of the poorest of the poor can fight a war and die for you on a hellish moonscaped mountainside and then when they return home in a flag-draped coffin, you seek to diminish their native brothers’ and sisters’ ability to vote. Young dead soldiers do not speak. They leave us their deaths. It is us who must give them meaning by remembering them,” Rodgers said. “We got tired of the dark lies in rooms of white marble. Now the plaintiff warriors will take their faith in justice by acting with justice to other rooms of white marble: the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and Congress.”

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who won reelection last year, said that poverty and unemployment levels on reservations are higher than in the rest of the state, and that many Native Americans don’t have access to transportation or can’t take time off from work.

“Native Americans are about 6 percent of the population, so it’s absolutely significant,” said Tester.

“Everybody who’s entitled to vote, we ought to give them every opportunity to vote,” Tester said. “We shouldn’t be limiting participation, we should be encouraging it.”

The suit might have an impact beyond Montana as well. If it goes as far as the Supreme Court, major Native American populations in Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nevada, California, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon and Alaska could see their voting rights greatly expanded or restricted.

Democrats are facing challenging elections in four of those states next year.

Native Americans have played a crucial role in electing Democratic senators, including Tester and Sens. Tim Johnson (S.D.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Al Franken (Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Mark Begich (Alaska.). All have won elections by fewer than 4,000 votes.

But for now, Montana — where Democrats are scrambling to find a candidate following ex-Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s surprise decision not to run — is the central battleground.

Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (D) says she supports the Native Americans’ demands, but that the lawsuit is misdirected.

At a video-recorded meeting with the tribes earlier this year, tensions between the two sides were palpable as they failed to negotiate a compromise after a nearly hour-long discussion.

“I care that the people at this table have equal access, and what is in my power as secretary of State to do, I can do,” said McCulloch. “What I do not have the authority over is establishing county clerk offices. That authority belongs to the county governing body, the county commissioners.

“We will support and assist any county whose governing body has made a decision to open a second county clerk election office that can offer services such as registering voters and issuing absentee ballots. You have my unwavering commitment to that.”

A spokeswoman for McCulloch, citing the ongoing litigation, declined to comment for this article.

The plaintiffs and tribal leaders rejected McCulloch’s remarks. They said Montana’s secretary of State should join the tribes by officially standing with the plaintiffs and leading the county commissioners to create the satellite offices.

J. Gerry Hebert, who worked on voting rights issues for more than 20 years in the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, doesn’t agree with McCulloch’s assessment either, saying that this type of case falls directly within her office’s jurisdiction.

“The secretary of State is the chief election officer and as such has the overall responsibility to ensure that all the state laws are complied with,” said Hebert, now the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center. “And in this case, which is typically the case, a plaintiff will file a lawsuit and bring it against both local and state election officials, because it is both of their responsibilities.”

Although the issue has been in the local press for nearly a year, the Montana Democratic Party has not weighed in on the lawsuit, saying only that it supports greater access to polling sites and will continue aggressive “get out the vote” efforts.

“Increasing access to the ballot box on reservations and throughout Montana has always been a priority,” said Chris Saeger, a spokesman for the state’s party. “We would welcome any improvements that make it easier for Montanans to have their say in elections.”

“The Democratic Party of Montana has said we have done what we could,” Rodgers said. “But hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger, for the way things are, and courage, to make a difference.”

Carole Goldberg, a professor and vice chancellor at UCLA’s School of Law who has dealt extensively with Native American legal rights, said discrimination is widespread in many states with Native populations.

“There are persistent patterns where states have criminal jurisdiction on reservations and the counties that exercise this jurisdiction locate their facilities and services in a place convenient for the non-Native population and not the Native populations,” said Goldberg, who has donated to multiple Democratic candidates.

Barring a settlement, oral arguments are expected to begin this fall.