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