A new organization called the North Dakota Native Vote launched Wednesday in the state capitol.
Tribal citizens from across the state came together, dedicating themselves to securing their right to vote.
Their mission is to motivate and engage tribal members to have their voices heard.
“It’s basically a unity of nations to teach each nation specifically where to vote, how to vote and inspiration, like I said from the beginning,” said the Vice Chairman of NDNV Wes Davis.
The organization was formed in response to a 2018 rule requiring voters to show proof of a permanent address before casting a ballot.
Davis said the group’s goal is to make sure Indigenous Americans have equal access to polling places when election day rolls around.
“We obviously have some issues within the state that need to be addressed through outreach, education and inspiration. So we want to make sure that not only do we know how to vote, we want to make sure people, Natives specifically are inspired to vote,” said Davis.
Like many rural North Dakotans, Indigenous Americans living on reservations don’t have physical street addresses, nstead relying on P.O. Boxes.
Some issues discussed Wednesday include the distance some people have to travel to vote and making sure people living on reservations are counted accurately.
“Once again go out to other communities and do some voter education, some leadership development, mobilizing and community organizing,” said Member at Large in NDNV, Melanie Moniz.
The nine members will be working on electoral policy change with respect to Indigenous people’s voting access.
The North Dakota Native Vote organization is looking to hire field organizers on each reservation to raise awareness of the importance of native people’s votes in the state.
Tribal Citizens from Fort Berthold reported having to drive as far as 65 miles to the nearest voting poll.
Their hope is that with the 2020 census, an accurate count will bring more polling stations to reservations.