#RealTalk with Jason Salsman

#RealTalk with Jason Salsman
(Native News Today)

‘Sadly, voting numbers can’t hold a candle to the number of complaints about the tribe, or the number of red license plates.’

Jason Salsman/Contributor

Something Doesn’t Add Up Here

OKMULGEE, Okla. — The most well attended destination at Muscogee (Creek) Nation every year, the 43rd annual MCN Festival, is almost in the rearview mirror. So now, with an MCN election on the horizon, it’s almost time to shift the focus to the least attended destination: the voting booth.

For years, MCN voting numbers have been bad. There’s no other way to put it. In fact, Mvskoke Media recently published a story regarding the election process where a 30 percent voter turnout was termed a banner year. By comparison, the article also mentioned that 40 percent is about as low of a turnout that the Choctaw Nation will see.

Abraham Lincoln was once quoted as saying, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

See, I love this quote because it showcases a couple key points, both the people’s power in a functioning democracy and the fact that you get what you get if you don’t exercise that power. In other words, if you’re not taking part in the process then you have no room to voice opposition to the way the tribe is governed.

Sadly, voting numbers can’t hold a candle to the number of complaints about the tribe, or the number of red license plates.

And maybe we look there. At some tribes, voter registration and casting a vote are requirements for services, like those plates.

Have we become an entitled people? Do we just take from the tribe and don’t feel there’s any need to give back and perform our simple civic duty?

The tribe provides wonderful programs like burial assistance, school clothing money, higher education incentives… programs that save Creek families thousands of dollars at difficult times. That should be worth the time and commitment to take a couple days out of the year to take part in our government.

The good news is that there are people aware of these issues and that are passionate about seeing these numbers improve. And they are in positions to do something about it. Sometimes turnover is a good thing and we must be constantly asking ourselves how can it be improved.

In the recent article I referenced above, ideas and comparative strategies were discussed that could have a profound affect. One suggestion was to make the voting process simpler for citizens by making the election ballots all absentee, or a vote-by-mail system.

The aforementioned Choctaw Nation has used this strategy for the last 15 to 20 years and has seen its participation climb as high as 80 percent. There has also been talk of the advancement of technology and how it can be a critical turning point in our future.

Imagine a mobile voting app where you could cast your ballot from the palm of your hand from your living room. There are those that prefer a polling location so that wouldn’t have to change, but simplifying the process would certainly help to reach those that may prefer a modern method.

Another idea was simply getting the word out and making greater effort to provide notice of Election Board meetings and key dates. These are all good ideas that would seem to provide at least a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, it comes down to the people. We can enact legislation to devise committees, fix campaign finance irregularities and try to remedy this situation as best we can. But in the end, it’s on us.

What kind of citizenry do we want to be? I know for a fact that it shouldn’t be one where less than 4,000 people decide who will lead 85,000 plus. That’s not a good practice. And we have a chance to do something about it in September.

At Mvskoke Media, we are going to do all we can to get the word out and to involve the citizenry in the process with the tools they need to make sound, informed decisions. There will be debates, candidate profiles, pertinent questions and opportunities to hear directly from those who wish to govern you.

So let your voice be heard. Take pride in the power and place you have in our democracy. Stand up and be counted, so you don’t have to sit on your blisters.




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    June 19, 2017, 5:01 pm

    A great article Jason! I wish the citizens would just read it! You are absolutely correct – the responsibility rests with the Citizens who are 18 and older to exercise their right and VOTE!

  • Patty Roberts
    June 19, 2017, 5:34 pm

    I live in OKC and I vote in every election and I don’t mind paying the postage to cast my vote. I see the red tribal plates around the city and wish I could display my pride like other tribes. But unfortunately that is not an option since I don’t live within the tribal boundaries.

    • Jacob Narcomy@Patty Roberts
      June 24, 2017, 11:28 am

      We don’t need nothin’ and we don’t need no votin’

      We have everything we need to live. And we always will. Government will take care of us until we die. We’re living in paradise where we don’t have to work or pay bills. Everything’s provided so, why should we vote? Is voting going to make our living condition any better? We’re happy with things being just the way they are.

      Who cares about voting numbers? It is not to our benefit to waste our time voting when we know that not anything beneficial we result from more people voting. We’ll will get our commodity cheese no matter what.

      We’re smarter than the ones shouting from the mountain tops that we must all turn out and vote. We’re smarter because we deal with reality. The reality is that voting will not result in anything different than what we already have. We stopped voting when we woke up to the inescapable fact that our lives didn’t get any better or worse if we voted or not. Voting is plainly unnecessary, and it’s silly for us to vote.

      We’ve it seen it before: the same old tired people who have become encrusted in their positions and who will tell us they are going to take care of the elders and our youth and provide more education funds. The candidates don’t tell us at the forums that this will be the last time they will speak to us until the next time they run for office.

      What good is it for us to storm the beaches of precincts with massive numbers of voters and possibly scaring the workers there half to death until someone can tell citizens what good things will happen when every Tom, Dick, and Harjo votes. What do we care that Choctaws voting numbers are better than ours?

      Let’s stop and look into this voting thing, and ask ourselves why a majority of our citizens couldn’t care less about voting. Is there someone out there to tell citizens what they will gain we they vote, someone to convinced citizens that elections are a positive thing and not another a re-run? When will elected leaders summon the moral courage to deconstruct our welfare state and remove themselves and our citizens from the gravy train? Of course that will take competence from our elected leaders, and is what we need more than massive number of voters.

      Don’t blame me for not voting, and don’t bother sending me campaign material, I’m sleeping this one out. Wake me when my cheese arrives.