A report launched this week that examines additional barriers caused by COVID-19 on voting within Native American communities in Arizona and offers a set of sound recommendations to address these challenges. Instituto in a partnership with the Phoenix Indian Center, collected data from a survey distributed to 22 Arizona Tribal communities, conducted interviews and held focus groups with the goal of assessing additional voting barriers caused by COVID-19 and exploring ways Tribes are overcoming them. The report named (linked here) Hearing from Native Voices: The COVID-19 Impact on Voting in Arizona’s Native American Communities includes four important topics pertaining to voting including the lack of voting messaging to Native communities, and offers practical strategies to ensure Native Americans can vote safely in this year’s election.
The report found that the outlook for Native American voter turnout is dim. When asked how the pandemic might impact voting, 50% of those surveyed responded that the pandemic will decrease the number of voters, 11% felt there will be no effect, 25% were unsure and only 14% expected that it will increase the number of voters.
Furthermore, issues of messaging and the lack of communication around voting was a recurring theme during the interviews and focus groups. Information about voting is not treated as relevant or important for Tribal members. Even for homes that do have electricity and TV, the public TV stations do not include Tribal communities. A survey respondent stated, “Local and State news networks doesn’t (sic) cover Tribal community news.”
As a result of this information, Instituto launched a Native American Voter Engagement Contest in July with the intent of awarding a seed grant for $30,000 to an individual or organization with the most innovative and strategic idea to implement a project on how to increase Native American voter turnout/participation for the November 2020 Elections. After receiving impressive submissions, Instituto is now ready to hear from the finalists and determine the winner during a showcase on August 27.
A NAT I.V.E.(Ideas for Voter Engagement) showcase will be held on Thursday, August 27 from 6:00 - 7:15 p.m MST/PT. The showcase will give finalists the opportunity to pitch their idea to increase voter turnout in front of a panel of judges who are experts in Native voting and civic engagement. The winner will be announced live and will receive $30,000. Instituto invites all to join for music by DJ Olywurld (Otoe/Comanche/Pawnee/Lakota) and comedy by Chance Rush (Hidatsa) as they explore innovative ideas to increase Native American voter turnout in Arizona!
Instituto’s mission is to build sustained political power of low-income and communities of color in Arizona.