The first Democrat to win Arizona since 1996, much of President-elect Joe Biden’s success in the State rested in the hands of Indigenous voters.
According to Arizona’s election results, 58 per cent of the Apache, Coconino and Navajo communities voted for Biden. Support for Biden was particularly strong within the Navajo Nation, with precincts voting for Biden ranging from 60 to 90 per cent.
In the United States Indigenous voters living on reservations may not have a fixed formal address or live in remote areas with lack of access to transport to polling sites. Despite these barriers, Indigenous voter numbers significantly increased in Arizona on election day.
Indigenous American voting rights group Four Directions took legal action previous to the election, representing Navajo peoples against the state of Arizona. Four Directions asked for an extension to be granted for mail-in ballots. Despite losing the case, the organisation paired with Rural Utah Project to work towards increasing voter registration.
The Rural Utah Project worked with Google to create ‘plus codes’ which worked as street addresses for those without a fixed, recognised address. ‘Plus codes’ used the latitude and longitude to create a code. Alongside this, field workers registered Navajo voters from their homes previous to COVID-19.
The Rural Utah Project assisted in the registration of 4,000 Indigenous American voters in Arizona alone.
“They were just happy to see somebody who actually took the time and initiative to come out,” Rural Utah Project Field Director Tara Benally told CBS News.
The Rural Utah Project and Four Directions also worked with voting rights organisation, VoteAmerica and the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund to provide gas cards which would assist people to get to the polls. VoteAmerica also sent 100,000 text messages to Indigenous Americans living in Arizona.
“Native people came together and through mutual aid support networks, through decades of coalition building and power building, they turned out despite all the odds,” VoteAmerica Chief of Staff and Cherokee man Jordan James Harvill told CBS news.
Biden’s campaign addressed Indigenous issues, including the increasing crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Many hope to see Biden appoint Indigenous Americans to Cabinet positions and reinstate the annual White House Tribal Nations Conference.
“We have put Joe Biden in office in many of the core states he needed to get across the finish line, and he needs to reciprocate that,” James Harvill said.
By Rachael Knowles