“No one has ever taken the time to really reach out to the individuals themselves and say, ‘Here is the list of reasons why you need to register to vote and vote, because it‘s something that affects you.’ said Tara Benally, Field Director for the Rural Arizona Project and Navajo Citizen, “Building that relationship with the people is what the federal government has to do. They have never done that with the indigenous nations.”
The Rural Arizona Project, a nonprofit that engages voters in rural areas, had seven to 10 field organizers this year and worked with 200 Indigenous artists and influencers to promote a voter registration tool designed to communities without traditional addresses. Native Americans are often disenfranchised when clerks mistakenly register them in the wrong neighborhood, but the tool allows voters to enter more codes – essentially shortened coordinates – to more accurately identify their location.
Ms. Benally’s team reached out to thousands of Navajo and Hopi voters, held drive-thru events to safely register voters during the pandemic and ultimately registered over 4,500 voters, the group’s executive director said, TJ Ellerbeck.
A separate Four Directions effort – led by Mr. Semans’ daughter, Donna Semans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe – has registered around 2,000 Navajo voters. VoteAmerica, a non-partisan group focused on low-propensity voters, sent more than 400,000 texts, according to its chief of staff, Jordan James Harvill, a Cherokee and Choctaw citizen. Advocacy groups have also reached out to postal workers, who have agreed to drive the ballots straight to their destinations to avoid the roundabout route Navajo Nation mail often takes.
Native Americans were also influential in Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden won by about 20,000 votes. The most democratic area in the state, where Mr. Biden got 82% of the vote, was Menominee County, which is near Green Bay and is home to the Menominee tribe. Ashland and Bayfield counties, which have sizable Native American populations, were blue spots in a sea of red in northern Wisconsin.
Indigenous participation was substantial and strongly democratic, even in states where the race was not close, such as North and South Dakota (which Mr. Trump won) and Minnesota (which Mr. Biden won) . Four Directions has registered more than 8,000 voters in Minnesota.