Dalton Walker
Indian Country Today

Diné citizen Mark Charles hasn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic slow his effort to be on the presidential election ballot.

Charles and his campaign staff have been working aggressively and virtually through the pandemic for ballot access in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., with mixed results.

Once the pandemic hit and safety concerns impacted daily life across the nation, the independent presidential candidate shifted his campaign to 100 percent online. With that decision came difficulties as each state has ballot access criteria that candidates must meet.

“The Mark Charles campaign is committed to valuing life, especially during a pandemic, and we are committed to protecting the health of our volunteers, supporters, and the general public,” read a message on Charles’ campaign website. “Therefore, we will not petition for in-person signatures for ballot access. However, the campaign has found ballot access pathways that keep it viable through November.”

Charles has a difficult road ahead to become the country’s 46th president. He will not be on everyone’s general election ballot come November, but his campaign has listed ways on Charles’ website for supporters to still vote for him.

Charles’ name will be on the Colorado and Vermont presidential election ballots with Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Tennessee still in play. He’s a write-in candidate in 30-plus states, according to his ballot access plan on his website that gives details on each state.

“We’re not doing any physical or in-person campaigning anywhere around the country. It makes it challenging to connect with local communities and especially with different states,” he said.

Charles has listed 10 states where he will not be on the ballot and where write-ins are not allowed. Those states include Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Indiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and South Dakota.

2019-01-18 Photo by Shane Bahn at The Indigenous Peoples March in DC

Independent candidates can typically petition each state to have their names on the general election ballot, but the process can be complicated, and states can differ on requirements like deadlines, signatures needed and fees. For example, Oklahoma requires 35,592 signatures from registered state voters and a $5,000 filing fee.

It’s also difficult for a non-Republican or non-Democratic candidate to win a national election. Charles is among a dozen or so candidates with some ballot access. The list includes rapper Kanye West, who has qualified to appear on ballots in Utah, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Colorado, according to the Associated Press. Wisconsin is also possible, but his effort is being challenged.

Charles, a son of a Navajo man and a American-Dutch woman, announced his presidential campaign in May 2019, with a focus on explaining what “We the People” in the U.S. Constitution truly means.

“I am working hard to help you understand that the changes I'm advocating for are not that radical, and they're not unreasonable,” Charles said. “I am seeking to rebuild a nation where we the people truly means all the people.”

Charles grew up in Gallup, New Mexico, a Navajo Nation bordertown and is of Christian faith and former pastor. He lives in Washington, D.C., and is a speaker, activist and author.

Charles has taken to social media to get his message across. He posts YouTube videos that talk about his policy and his plan is for his first 100 days in office, among many other topics. He often compares his policy with those of President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

“I'm not running for president just because I'm for All the People, I'm running for POTUS because I'm one of #AllThePeople,” Charles said in a recent Facebook post comparing himself to Biden.

Charles challenged Native people to look beyond the traditional two-party system and ask candidates their plan to establish a better working relationship with Native nations.

Charles hasn’t named a running mate yet, but has said he would name a Native American as secretary of State.

A Native candidate for president or vice president is rare.

Russell Means, Oglala Lakota, ran for president in 1987 in a failed bid for a Libertarian Party nomination.

Charles Curtis, Kaw, was the first Native to be elected vice president. He served with President Herbert Hoover from 1929 to 1933.

LaDonna Harris, Comanche, and Winona LaDuke, White Earth, each ran for vice president. Harris was on the Citizen Party’s ticket with Barry Commoner in 1980. LaDuke ran twice with Ralph Nader on the Green Party Ticket in 2000 and 2004.


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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.

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