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PNS Daily Newscast - October 19, 2920 


Trailing Biden in Nevada, Trump holds a jam-packed Carson City rally. And with COVID a major election issue, hospitals help patients register to vote.


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Litigation is ongoing on ballot receipt deadlines, witness signatures and drop boxes. And early voting starts in a dozen states this week.

Outreach for Native Voters Ramps Up, But COVID a Major Roadblock

Despite a variety of obstacles in 2020, groups such as North Dakota Native Vote have been trying to build on voter-participation progress in tribal areas. (ND Native Vote)
Despite a variety of obstacles in 2020, groups such as North Dakota Native Vote have been trying to build on voter-participation progress in tribal areas. (ND Native Vote)
August 31, 2020

BISMARCK, N.D. -- With a little more than two months before the November election, a North Dakota group is working to overcome challenges from the pandemic to engage with Native American voters.

2018 was a banner year for voter participation among North Dakota tribal members, when record turnout was reported.

Devero Yellow Earring, field director for North Dakota Native Vote, said they're pushing just as hard to educate voters in 2020.

He said they're hiring and training volunteers from four different reservations to do outreach work in their communities.

The group noted that is safer than having canvassers travel to different spots, creating more COVID risks. He added this approach maintains the mission of grassroots work.

"The community has their own voice," Yellow Earring said. "The community has their own efforts and they're creating their own representation. "

However, there still are limitations. In the spirit of Native American culture, volunteers in 2018 were able to spread messages through large community gatherings.

But the pandemic won't allow for that in 2020. Yellow Earring said while he's still hopeful voters haven't lost that energy, the crisis could provide a setback for voter turnout this time around.

Yellow Earring said they're also appealing to county auditors to add as many ballot drop boxes in tribal communities as possible, while providing more accommodations at polling locations.

The group said it hasn't seen an adequate response. The North Dakota Association of Counties did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Meanwhile, Yellow Earring said they're trying not to overlook Native Americans living in urban areas.

"Some of the feedback that we got from some of the urban communities is sometimes they feel left out or forgotten because there's always an emphasis on reservation-based efforts," Yellow Earring said.

As it is with tribal communities, he said the pandemic provides challenges in connecting with urban Native voters face-to-face.

But Yellow Earring said the message stays the same: education about the process is key to getting more Native Americans to participate and have their voices heard.

Disclosure: North Dakota Native Vote contributes to our fund for reporting on Civic Engagement, Native American Issues, and Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - ND