“No one has ever taken the time to really reach out to the individuals themselves and say, ‘These are the list of reasons why you need to register to vote and cast your ballot, because this is something that affects you,’” said Tara Benally, field director for the Rural Arizona Project and a Navajo citizen. “Building that relationship with the people, it’s what the federal government needs to do. They’ve never actually done that with the Indigenous nations.”
The Rural Arizona Project, a nonprofit that mobilizes voters in rural areas, had seven to 10 field organizers this year and worked with 200 Indigenous artists and influencers to promote a voter registration tool designed for communities without traditional street addresses. Native Americans are often disenfranchised when clerks mistakenly register them in the wrong precinct, but the tool lets voters enter plus codes — essentially shortened coordinates — to identify their locations more precisely.
Ms. Benally’s team contacted thousands of Navajo and Hopi voters, held drive-through events to register voters safely during the pandemic, and ultimately registered more than 4,500, the group’s executive director, TJ Ellerbeck, said.
A separate effort by Four Directions — led by Mr. Semans’s daughter, Donna Semans, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe — registered about 2,000 Navajo voters. VoteAmerica, a nonpartisan group focused on low-propensity voters, sent more than 400,000 texts, according to its chief of staff, Jordan James Harvill, a Cherokee and Choctaw citizen. Advocacy groups also reached out to postal workers, who agreed to drive mail-in ballots straight to their destination to avoid the circuitous route that mail from the Navajo Nation often takes.
Native Americans were also influential in Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden won by about 20,000 votes. The state’s most Democratic area, where Mr. Biden received 82 percent of the vote, was Menominee County, which is near Green Bay and is home to the Menominee Tribe. Ashland and Bayfield Counties, which have significant Native American populations, were blue spots in a sea of red in northern Wisconsin.
Native turnout was substantial, and heavily Democratic, even in states where the race wasn’t close, like North and South Dakota (which Mr. Trump won) and Minnesota (which Mr. Biden won). Four Directions registered more than 8,000 voters in Minnesota.