Get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts by Western Native Voice helped to increase Native American turnout on Montana’s seven Native reservations. Phone calls, rides to the polls, and door knocking bumped turnout in Native communities from 57 percent in 2012 to 59 percent in 2016, eclipsing the national turnout rate of 55 percent. The overall Montana turnout reached 74 percent.
As part of the effort, Western Native Voice registered approximately 2,067 voters this year. This total excludes unreported data, estimated at 400 registrations, from three counties, including two with the largest populations.
GOTV work to generate Native American turnout began in late September. On October 12, satellite voting offices opened on six reservations. Early efforts by Western Native Vote focused on public education and how to use the satellite offices.
2017 Montana legislature
Western Native Vote enters the 2017 legislative session with 101 newly trained leaders, 6,989 members and 10 legislators in the Montana Native Caucus. For the first time in Montana, voters elected a Native American to represent an off-reservation legislative district.
Western Native Voice is preparing to engage members and leaders in Montana’s upcoming legislative session through member communication, calls to action and continued recruitment in each community. The group assists members to participate in trainings and hearings to continue to expand leadership capacity at all levels.
Western Native Voice’s advocacy program centers on equality, social justice, economic justice, environmental justice, protecting Native American rights and tribal sovereignty. The goals of the advocacy program are:
- Build support for Native issues with allies and partners.
- Inform Native constituents.
- Communicate regularly with legislative leaders.
- Track votes on targeted bills impacting Indian Country.
- Work to increase funding for Native communities and organizations.
- Support legislation that improves the lives of Native American families and oppose legislation that attacks the rights of Montanan’s.
- Advance the Native perspective at all levels of policy making and budget allocation.
- Partner with the Montana Native American Caucus and other elected officials.