Election Day is now a funny phrase. A generation ago it signified that one day when citizens showed up at the polls and cast ballots. Then after the polls closed, the votes were counted.
Election Day is more like Election Weeks. Across the country people are already voting. The election is no longer just about ideas, but about making sure voters turn out.
Early voting started in Minnesota last week, Sept. 21.
“I have been an organizer my entire life, from my time working on Paul Wellstone’s campaign to running for school board to working with a coalition to raise the minimum wage. This week we will be kicking off early voting across the state,” wrote Peggy Flanagan on Twitter. She hashtagged the tweet #MobilizerInChief and #OneMinnesota.
Flanagan is running in Minnesota as the DFL candidate for lieutenant governor. She is a White Earth Nation citizen.
And, in case you missed the news from the history-making primary, Donna Bergstrom, Red Lake, is the candidate for the same office on the Republican side. She also tweeted about a call for early voting. “Vote early and vote ... right! Vote @MNJeffJohnson for Governor!” Bergstrom’s hashtag is #OverthrowTheStatusQuo.
There are 9 Native Americans running for a variety of offices in Minnesota, including the office of lieutenant governor. Ray “Skip” Sandman, Fond Du LacBand of Ojibwe, is a candidate for the U.S. House on the Minnesota Independent Party. There are also six candidates for the state legislature, on the DFL ticket, Jamie Becker-Finn, Leech Lake; Karen Branden, Metis; Mary Kunesh-Podein, White Earth; and Michael Northbird, Leech Lake. Running as Republicans: Kirsten Johnson, Leech Lake; and Steve Green, White Earth.
Another state where voting has already started is South Dakota. This is a state where early Native voting could really make a difference. Why? Because early voting is a sure thing. A vote on election day itself could work, but the voter might get tied up on the job. Or have to deal with a family issue. Or. Or. Or. The point is an early vote is done. Certain. So imagine what the numbers would look like if the Native American precincts in South Dakota reached 100 percent participation.
South Dakota has ten candidates running for office, and two statewide. Wayne Frederick, Rosebud, is seeking the post of Public Utilities Commission and Alexandra Frederick, Lakota, is running for Secretary of State. They are a married couple. Campaigning together. Alexandra Frederick says they have already driven 10,000 miles to reach voters in small towns. She told the Huron Plainsman that “we can change things, we can make it better, we can make this a South Dakota that represents everybody, not just the select few.”
If elected, Frederick would be in charge of elections. She said she is working hard to encourage more people to vote. Voting practices are not always fair, she told the Plainsman. Members of her family, living in the same house, were told once when they went to vote that some of them had to vote at a different precinct that was many miles away.
There are nine Native American candidates for the South Dakota legislature. Tamara St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton, is running as a Republican. And Peri Pourier, Oglala; Margaret Ross; Oglala; Shawn Bordeau; Rosebud; Joseph Yracheta, P’urhepecha; Red Dawn Foster, Oglala, Ali Moran, Cheyenne River, Troy Heinert, Rosebud, and Faith Spotted Eagle, Yankton.
South Dakota is a state that is underrepresented in the legislature. But the election of nine Native Americans to the legislature could change that … dramatically. And one way to make that happen is early voting.
Across the country there are at least 105 Native Americans running for Congress, state offices, and legislatures. This is the first election where more of those candidates are women than men.
Mark Trahant is editor of Indian Country Today. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Follow him on Twitter - @TrahantReports