Election Office discusses potential fixes
OKMULGEE, Okla. — When looking at voter turnout at Muscogee (Creek) Nation elections, voter apathy is an issue for the Nation. In a recent Mvskoke Media survey most people said they would be voting in the upcoming National Council Seat B election.
“I’ll be honest, I really am not 100 percent sure why we have such a big voter apathy,” MCN Election Office manager Nelson Harjo Jr. said.
The statistics provided by the MCN Election Board for the 2015 election for principal chief and Seat A of the National Council shows that out of the 16,604 registered Muscogee (Creek) voters, the grand total for votes cast in the general election amounted to 4,994. That is 30 percent.
A breakdown of the districts shows that the district with the most registered voters, Okmulgee, had 38 percent participate in the 2015 election.
The lowest participation percentage was the Muskogee District with 21 percent.
In the past, the campaign ‘Shake the Vote’ attempted to reach out and encourage every eligible Muscogee (Creek) citizen to express his or her right to vote.
Whether this campaign was successful or not cannot be determined as official numbers for the 2013 Seat B elections that could not be provided by the Election Office and are not available on the MCN website.
There are not many statistics on the average Muscogee (Creek) voter. The MCN Election Board is taking steps to gather information and demographics of MCN voters.
“I do know that one of the things that we are looking to implement for this election is an electronic polling system,” Harjo said.
The Election Board is going to set up a central database system on the day of the election. They will utilize technology available at each of the polling sites and a system set up in the absentee counting room.
Instead of a voter writing their name on a sign in sheet, an election worker will look up the person’s name in the database using an iPad.
By using this technique, the Election Board will be able to generate numbers to pinpoint which polling site a voter casts their ballot as well as their age.
Currently, information is not available on the average Muscogee (Creek) voter, what age groups vote the most or where they reside.
If the numbers could be looked at closer, it is possible MCN could see where the problem lies.
Whose responsibility isit to make sure Muscogee (Creek) citizens vote? The MCN Election Board’s main purpose is to encourage eligible citizens to register to vote.
The only criterion for a Muscogee (Creek) citizen to vote is to be 18 years of age and register with the Election Office.
Registering to vote for MCN does not have to be done in person. Anyone with internet access, telephone, fax machine or even mail can be provided with registration forms.
The Election Office has also partnered with Mvskoke Nation Youth Services to provide a training event for anyone that wants to act as a registrar, someone that could perform registration duties at different events.
Harjo said the goal of the training event was to not only get people to serve in registrar capacities, but also target the younger generation and educate them about the election process.
“We are open to all avenues at this point looking for people willing to work with us to get the word out there about certain dates that are important to the election,” Harjo said.
When it comes to the actual voting process, the Election Office is looking to explore different options to help increase voter turnout.
Harjo said he has had discussions with leaders from both the executive and legislative branches to modernize the election process from using more technology to increasing voter opportunity by having early in person voting.
The opportunities present right now for a citizen to vote are to physically cast their ballot at a polling station or send them in the mail via absentee ballot.
“Absentee voting is a good thing. It allows people that are not physically able for one reason or the other to make it to the polls to cast their ballot,” Harjo said.
He said though the amount of absentee voters has increased over the years, it not had an no effect on the overall voters that turnout for the elections.
“What it has done is created a trade off. More people are casting by absentee versus going to the polling site but the overall participation has not increased,” Harjo said.
The Election Office also provides a unique opportunity that differs from state and national elections.
“We’re still waiting on an official opinion from the AG (Attorney General) but preliminary we haven’t seen any laws or any amendments that would prevent a person with a felony or that is currently incarcerated from voting,” Harjo said.
A citizen that has a felony or is currently incarcerated can participate in MCN elections through an absentee ballot.
Perhaps education about the elections, voting process and the way MCN government works could help increase voter turnout.
“I think a lot of our citizens know the basic outline of our government…but outside of that all the processes that make those work is still a big mystery to a lot of our citizens,” Harjo said.
He suggested that educating younger generations could possibly affect future voter turnout.
“…the more knowledge they have about our government I think the more likely they are going to take an interest in how it works and who is in office,” Harjo said. “Get them interested while they are young.”
Additional election information can be found at:
The Election Office can be contacted at: 918-732-7631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.