Salt River Launches Initiative to Increase Voter Turnout 

657

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Office of Congressional & Legislative Affairs’ (OCLA) Get Out the Vote Committee has launched a new initiative to increase voter turnout in the Community. Since September 2, new billboards with the slogan “SkoVoteDen” have been attracting the attention of drivers along McDowell Road between the Loop 101 and Longmore Road. 

“About the slogan ‘SkoVoteDen’—I think just getting it out there now is where we are, making sure people are aware of our campaign,” said OCLA Intergovernmental Relations Project Manager Angela Willeford. That particular slogan is designed to garner interest among Community members, using a recognizable phrase to get out the vote. 

“Skoden” is Indigenous slang for the phrase “Let’s go then.” Adding “Vote” in the middle gives it the meaning “Let’s go vote then.” It’s similar to the slang words “Stoodis” for “Let’s do this” and “Supden” for What’s up then?”

Willeford said, “I know it’s a slang term, but I think now that I am hearing people talk about [the billboard] more and more, they are curious what it’s about and then they ask if it’s a certain language. So right now, it is a popular phrase among [our] younger Native audiences.” 

She said that although the phrase is popular among younger audiences, some in the older age demographic of the Community are not familiar with the phrase. “I went out to the seniors and I presented the ‘SkoVoteDen’ campaign to them,” Willeford said. “Some of the seniors asked what it meant, so some people may not know what it means.” 

Willeford said that the GOTV committee will continue to launch more voter initiatives prior to the next U.S. midterm general election on November 8. Information will continue to go out to the Community on how individuals can register to vote and learn more about the candidates appearing on Arizona’s ballot. 

There is also another billboard a short way down McDowell Road that highlights the lack of representation of Native Americans in the media. It presents a list of the various ethnicities, but where “Native Americans” should be, it says “Something Else.”

The phrase comes from a CNN election graphic depicting voter demographics that was posted live on-air during the 2020 Presidential Election. It used “Something Else” as the category representing Native peoples. In response to the gaffe, the National Congress of American Indians said the choice of labels to represent Natives and other voters takes away from the overall impact of their votes in historic elections. 

According to Willeford, the lack of appropriate Native representation in the media makes it even more important to emphasize Native representation and underscore that Native votes matter in all elections. She said, “With our campaign, we are saying ‘Don’t Be Something Else, Register to Vote.’”

The OCLA has also taken its efforts to homes in the Community. On September 17, the GOTV committee members and volunteers went door-to-door to inform Community members about registering to vote and the upcoming general election.

“We have different phases, so right now our first phase is to get everyone else to vote. On the day we went door-to-door, we visited 176 homes,” said Willeford, who≠stressed that these were homes where the data indicated that individuals were not registered to vote. 

“We got the data through the Voter Access Network, and then we got our Community data, and then our GIS (Geographic Information Systems) team merged them together and removed duplicate addresses. There are some individuals that we are unable to visit due to reasons that prohibit us from doing so,” said Willeford. 

As the November 8 general election draws closer, the Community is in a position to help determine who will become the next governor of Arizona and which lawmakers will be elected from Arizona to Congress. 

“The governor’s role is extremely important to Native communities,” Willeford said. “A lot of individuals know that [the SRPMIC is] a sovereign Community, but we definitely need to make sure we are voting in a governor who will advocate on behalf of our needs.” 

The GOTV Committee would like to stress to Community members who are not registered to vote how important it is for the benefit of the Community that they exercise their right to vote. Willeford said that voting is a way for them to make their voices heard and to elect candidates who represent their values and interests, including those of tribal communities like SRPMIC. Native people have overcome many historical challenges in order to earn the right to vote. In Arizona, they were finally given the right to vote after a court decision in 1948.

From now through November 8, Community members can expect to see a slew of GOTV-supported events, such as voter registration booths at various locations and events in the Community, mailers and articles in O’odham Action News. The best way to stay up to date on the GOTV activities is to visit the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs’ Facebook page or their website at www.srpmic-nsn.gov/government/administration/ocla/. 

Previous articleFEMA Steps in to Assist Community After Storm Damage
Next articleAnnual Tribute to Fallen 9/11 First Responders Draws Over 1,000 Participants