Opinion

Oliver Semans: Indian voters pack a punch at the polls again





"Who would think that a group that makes up about one percent of the overall population could carry such a wallop? From 2000, when we defeated infamous “Indian fighter” U.S. Senator Slade Gorton (R-Washington) and replaced him with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), to 2012, when we re-elected Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), we’ve been the deciders in states where our vote made the crucial difference.

It’s not about the candidates, though, or their parties. Neither major political party has clean hands when it comes to suppressing the Native vote. Case in point: Four Directions Inc., the voting-rights organization I co-direct, is involved in fighting two major lawsuits. One calls out Montana’s head election official, Democrat Linda McCulloch, and the other names South Dakota’s voting czar, Republican Jason Gant, for failing to support Native voting equality.

It is about empowering tribal members. Four Directions, which I run with Barb Semans, is nonpartisan and dedicated to Native voter protection and education, get-out-the-vote activities and a crazy idea called equality. Our goal is to increase Native voting and thereby the ability of Native people to better their own lives."

Get the Story:
Oliver J. Semans: Native Vote Packs a Punch—Again (Indian Country Today 11/15)