American Indian College Fund Launches Voter Registration Campaign

Tribal students can earn a $500 grant to host a voter registration or education drive at their college or university.
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Published on May 22, 2024
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  • A new grant program aims to encourage tribal college students to vote in the upcoming election.
  • Native Americans, including college students, face unique barriers to voting in the U.S.
  • The grant program will award $500 to students to organize events such as voter registration drives.
  • Grants can also be used to address obstacles like lack of transportation to polling stations in rural communities.

The American Indian College Fund is empowering tribal college students across the country to mobilize their communities to vote in this year's presidential election.

Native Americans of all ages, including college students, face unique barriers to voting in the U.S., College Fund CEO and President Cheryl Crazy Bull told BestColleges. College students can now apply for a $500 grant to host events to encourage their fellow students to head to the polls this November.

She said the College Fund purposefully left options open-ended for how students choose to spend their grant funds if approved.

I'm really going to leave it up to students to decide what's best for their specific community, Crazy Bull said.

Some of the events students can organize, she said, include:

  • Voter registration drives
  • Community events to educate Native Americans on the value of voting
  • Media presentations to encourage voting
  • Transportation to and from polling stations

These events can help combat many obstacles that prevent Native students, and Native communities in general, from voting. It's an issue especially important for traditionally aged college students, as Crazy Bull said she has noticed more apprehension among younger generations about the value of voting.

I think [voting] was more highly valued in my parents' generation, but I see it less valued among my children and grandchildren, she said.

June 2 will mark the 100th anniversary of the passage of the Indian Citizenship Act, which gave Native Americans the right to vote in non-tribal elections.

She said this inspired many generations to participate in national and state elections. But some of that shine has now worn off. Native communities must now spend more time convincing citizens why their vote matters in many instances.

It comes down to feeling, are you welcome to vote? Is your vote appreciated? she said. Is it seen as an exercise in citizenship, or is it seen by the community as inconsequential?

These pressures are both external and internal, she said.

Beyond that, transportation is often a barrier to student voting, Crazy Bull added.

Many tribal colleges and universities are located in rural areas. That means polling stations may be far from college campuses or from where students live, she said, which discourages people from voting.

Lastly, Crazy Bull said proper documentation and registration are often an issue for tribal students.

Many tribal nations hold regular elections, she said, but people who belong to that tribal nation are automatically allowed to vote in those races. That means many college students don't realize they must register to vote in national and state elections in every state except for North Dakota.

Crazy Bull hopes the College Fund's efforts will help clear up many of these misconceptions.

Students can apply for a College Fund grant from the Make Native Voices Heard campaign by sending in a video explaining why they plan to vote and how they can encourage others to do the same. Students may also send a written blog post.

The College Fund will post selections online and through social media, further promoting the importance of Native students voting.

Crazy Bull said she expects to award at least 30 grants before Election Day on Nov. 5, potentially over 50 grants.