Rural Utah Project

Al Día: Indigenous Resilience: A surge of votes come Covid or High Water

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Read the original post in Al Día.

The slim margin of victory goes beyond Mexican-American mobilization in Arizona. This also has to do with Native American voters.

Native American voters tend to vote overwhelmingly blue. In 2020, this trend made all the difference in Arizona and Wisconsin.

In the former, it has to do with the Indigenous voters living in the northeast corner of the state, with specific regards to the Navajo Nation, where the past year has been particularly strenuous when considering the effects of COVID-19.

But historically, there has been a myriad of impediments when it comes to voting on Native American reservations. This is why, when we’re talking about the Mexican-American vote or the Native American vote in Arizona, Joe Biden has mobilizing groups to thank for delivering a majority of the vote in his favor.

What became true early on during Election week 2020, was that it was the non-white demographics, and micro demographics.

In Georgia, Black women, like Stacey Abrams and grassroots female organizers fueled the state’s flip to blue, as was the case in Pennsylvania, the state that ultimately granted Biden his victory.

In Arizona, the early indicator of Biden’s win, the vote was predominantly fueled by Mexican-American mobilization, largely carried out by women. But alas, the razor-thin margin in Arizona cannot be attributed to the Latinx demographic alone, no matter how decisive its role has presented itself.

When it comes to a thin margin of just a few thousand votes — around 17,000 according to the Associated Press as of Nov. 9, with 98% reporting — all factors must be considered, and the nation must not disregard the voting power of Indigenous People.

At one point in May, the Navajo Nation reported the highest infection rate in the country, surpassing New York City. Its leader, President Jonathan Nez has criticized the Trump administration for its inadequate response, ranging from not mandating masks at an early date, to omitting vital information from the country on the true danger of the virus in February.

The Navajo Nation was virtually left to fend for itself, and it joined other tribal nations in a lawsuit over the dispersal of funds.

Even just weeks before the General Election, the Navajo nation found itself at a disadvantage relative to the rest of the nation when it comes to voting in the age of coronavirus.

Voter Registration in the Navajo Nation is a big issue, as many residents are not assigned a physical address. Voter registration and advocacy groups like the Rural Utah Project worked to register and turn-out Indigenous votes on the reservation and managed to register over 4,000 Native American voters in Arizona.

Several Navajo citizens also filed a suit against the state of Arizona over the deadline for mail-in ballots. 

But it was ultimately because of grassroots efforts by VoteAmerica and, Four Directions, Rural Utah Project, and President Nez’s administration, that counties like Apache County in Arizona, which overlaps the Navajo and Hopi Tribes, saw 116% voter turnout compared to 2016.

“Native voters have been ignored cycle after cycle by both parties, but hear me now.” wrote Jordan James Harvill, Chief staff at VoteAmerica. “Indigenous peoples WILL define the American electorate in the next decade.”

While it’s important to note all votes are not yet counted and all numbers are unofficial, with 2% votes outstanding, the margin will be trivial.

That’s especially considering that Indigenous people in Arizona comprise around 6% of the population.

As reported by the Navajo Times on Thursday, Nov. 5, precinct-level data shows that outside of the predominantly blue metro areas like Phoenix and Tucson, which also have high numbers of Indigenous voters, the whole of rural blue “islands” that voted for Biden and Mark Kelly, the Democratic Senator-elect to represent Arizona, are on Native lands.

High Country News also reported that in some precincts of the Tohono O’odham Nation in Southeastern Arizona, Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris took away 98% of the vote.

This is opposed to a rate of 51% statewide.

The Navajo Times wrote that the three counties that overlap with the Hopi Tribe and Navajo Nation delivered 73,954 votes to Biden, with just over 2,000 for Trump. 

In early October Biden released a 15-page plan for working with Tribal nations, with goals, in what can be viewed as a last-ditch effort to appeal to the Native vote.

The data speaks for itself, and after such a contribution to the next presidency by Indigenous voters nationwide, it is to be seen if Joe Biden will follow through with his promises to Indigenous lives while on the campaign trail.

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