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Guest Opinion - Native Vote 2024. The US. Civil Rights Commission Broken Promises Report documents the stark disparities American Indian and Alaska Natives (AIAN) suffer with the worst of the worst outcomes. As a people, we suffer the highest rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, suicide, substance abuse including opiates and fentanyl, accidental overdose and more. In 2022, the CDC reported that our life expectancy dropped by 7 years over a two-year period. We were the last to be granted citizenship with the right to vote in 1924. 

 A hundred years later, it’s imperative that we fully engage in the democratic process by registering and voting in the 2024 US House, Senate and Presidential election.  

Tribal nations expect the treaties to be honored in full.Treaties are not discretionary; neither should our funding be. It should be mandatory and should be multiples of what it is. I was proudly part of the National Indian Health Board (NIHB) and National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) coalition that successfully pushed Indian Health Service (IHS) Advanced Appropriations across the finish line in 2022.  Still, while the IHS Budget Formulation Workgroup proposes up to $53.85Billion in Annual IHS funding, we hover at 20% of the demonstrated need in “purchase and referred service areas” alone.  

In 2020, I believe were the margin of victory. During the 2016 residential election cycle, a group of Tribal leaders and I met Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee and Senator Tim Kaine, Vice Presidential nominee to discuss their flailing outreach to Indian Country. I focused on the proportion of Native voters in key battleground electoral college states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and North Carolina.  With the margin of error in various poll of polls in September 2016, I argued that shoring up the Native vote through a Tribal Sovereignty ticket could make the difference.  The following data from the 2016 election (updated in 2020) which illustrates that the proportion of Native voters are in some states, up to 10 times the margin of victory. Put more simply, up to 77 electoral college votes are in play in states where the Native Vote can be the deciding factor. 

A pro-sovereignty Presidential platform on key issues that impact tribes and issues of full funding in honoring the treaty and trust obligation can deliver the Native Vote. While AIAN voters are not monolithic, we have shown that we prioritize our own interests in supporting tribal sovereignty and upholding the treaty and trust obligation including full funding.  We are likely to support candidate who support us on issues of tribal sovereignty, and fully funding the treaty and 

trust obligation. As a quantitative social scientist, I juxtaposed the margin of victory in the 2016 Presidential election with the proportion of AIAN voters in each state.  In all cases, the margin of victory was less than the proportion of AIANs. The Native Vote can determine the outcome in key battleground states.  While tribal citizens are not entirely partisan, many will vote for a candidate with a tribal sovereignty platform irrespective of party lines.   

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In Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota for example, Chairwoman Melanie Benjamin (Mille lacs Band), Shannon Holsey (Stockbridge Munsee) and I (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe) pushed Native GOTV efforts highlighting a non-partisan Sovereignty Ticket. This resulted in the pro-Tribal Sovereignty Candidate clinching 36 Electoral College votes. See the non-partisan Native GOTV literature I mailed to all 24,000 of my fellow Sault Tribe voters

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Native Vote played a critical role in ensuring victory for the pro-sovereignty candidate.  This is not partisan; it’s just smart.  Once elected, platforms morph in Presidential agendas.  Registering to vote and voting is critical to defending our sovereignty and you and I can make the difference by being the margin of victory. 

America’s first, should not be last to share in the American Dream.  

Dr. Aaron Payment is a former elected Tribal leader who served for two terms on Council and four terms as Tribal Chairperson.  He also served as Regional VP, Secretary, and 1st VP for the National Congress of American Indians for nearly 10 years.

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About The Author
Author: Aaron PaymentEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.