When it comes to the voting power of Native populations in the U.S., Alaska comes out on top.
Alaska Natives make up 17 percent of Alaska’s voting-age population, the highest percentage of any state, said Malia Villegas, National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center director. Villegas gave a presentation on the Native vote at the joint Alaska Federation of Natives and NCAI conference Wednesday in Anchorage.She broke down social and economic issues faced by Native people into colorful infographics as a way to get the audience charged up about encouraging fellow Alaska Natives to vote in the upcoming Nov. 4 election.
“The geek world of numbers and data is actually a good way of getting you inspired to do something,” she said.
Across the country, only 66 percent of eligible Alaska Natives and American Indians are registered to vote, according to NCAI numbers. That means 1 million eligible Native people are unregistered. The voter turnout rate for Native people across the country is 5 to 14 percent lower than the rate of other racial and ethnic groups.
In Alaska, the Native population that votes most is middle-aged women, Villegas said. Native representation in federal and state government is also not where it should be, Villegas said. There are 64 Native state legislators across the country. With the largest voting-age Native population in the U.S., Alaska should have the most Native state legislators. Currently there are five. The state with the most is Oklahoma with 22 legislators.
There are two Native members of Congress, both in the House of Representatives. If representation was proportional to the U.S. Native population, there would be two Native U.S. senators and seven Native members of the House of Representatives, according to NCAI numbers.
“We need our Native people to put their hats in the ring, get up, stand up and lead,” Villegas said.
NCAI Executive Director Jacqueline Pata urged the audience to get passionate about Native issues and vote in the upcoming election.
“This is an election the nation is watching,” Pata said.