Native Vote Program

Wisconsin Native Vote is hiring!
Northeast Wisconsin Community Organizer – Wisconsin Native Vote Program
Apply by Friday, August 19. We may consider late applicants.

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute has teamed up with many of Wisconsin’s Native American Tribes to create Native Vote, a program to turn out Native American voters on Election Day.

Native Americans in Wisconsin vote at significantly lower rates than the state average. For example, only about 34% of Native Americans in Ashland County voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election – in stark contrast to overall statewide voter turnout of 52% in that same year.

To combat this reality, Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute worked in partnership with Tribes across Wisconsin to implement a hugely successful voter engagement program. Success came from running a program that was integrated into the reservation communities, supported by tribal leaders, and run by Native Americans.

Our goal from the beginning was to make sure this is a program with lasting impact. We wanted to know that new leaders were being developed, that tribal leaders were engaged, and that there would be added capacity for the next issue or the next election.

2014 Results

Group Training EditThanks to even deeper involvement and commitment from tribal leaders and communities, as well as a robust person-to-person program, the Native Vote program’s success grew in 2014. In fact, the program was able to increase overall voter turnout by 31%. Several individual communities saw even higher increases in voter turnout. Some of the biggest highlights include:

  • 73% increase in voter turnout in Red Cliff.
  • 49% increase in both Mole Lake and Bad River.
  • 11% increase in Lac Courte Oreilles.

The success of Native Vote comes in large part from the commitment of tribal leaders and the communities and a robust person-to-person program led by Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute.

NV1In 2014, Native Vote staff:

  • Gathered 2,500 pledges-to-vote.
  • Spoke with 7,500 Native American voters at their homes and at community events in the month leading up to the election.
  • Spoke with 3,900 voters in the final four days leading up to Election Day.
  • Sent 3 pieces of mail to 19,000 Native households.

2012 Results

Overall, voter turnout for the state of Wisconsin increased 1% in 2012 from 2008. But on the reservations we saw 2%, 6%, and even 14% increases. The Menominee reservation even reached an astounding 90% voter turnout, and the Lac du Flambeau and Menominee newspapers announced that they had record turnout levels.

Voices from the Field

One of the major successes of the program is the lasting impact it made on the lives of new and existing leaders. Many of the Native Vote staff, like Colleen, plan to continue to be active in their communities and are interested in running voter education programs in the future.

Colleen Dodge was a key leader in 2012 and 2014. In 2014, Colleen ran the northeast Native Vote team, covering Oneida, Menominee, Stockbridge, and Mole Lake areas.

Colleen described her experience with her 2014 Native Vote team of staff:

“We were able to employ 12 people to work with us. They took ownership and were enthusiastic about their work and became leaders in their own right. They became such a close team they hated to break up at the end. I went into this to be the best leader I knew how. We built our team; we had weekly incentives, set goals; we encouraged each other, worked with everyone’s assets to the team. Our team was so good they took their skills to help other reservations.”

ColleenGaryWebColleen, pictured to the right with her son, also said:

“My most honorable memory is having my son, Gary Dodge Jr, work with us this year for the second time. He first worked with Native Vote when he was 19 years old. This year he was one of the first and youngest to be deputized to register people to vote.”

One of the major successes of the program is the lasting impact it made on the lives of new and existing leaders. Many of the Native Vote staff, like Colleen, plan to continue to be active in their communities and are interested in running voter education programs in the future.

Aurora Conley, Bad River Tribal member and Native Vote staff, summed up her experience with 2012 Native Vote:

“This program should be crucial to Native communities. I learned more than I could imagine in so many ways, about the in depth electoral process and how to engage Native communities, about the communities themselves and the issues, the people. There were moments I shared with the people. I laughed, I cried, I spoke, I listened, I was there, in their homes, on their land, pushing for an America that even the Natives are hopeful for. We want to be involved, we want to be heard, included, and exercising the same rights as every American should. In the end I felt we gave so much to so many, so many thanked us for our work and encouraged us, supported the program, but I personally feel I was given more than just an opportunity or experience, I was given inspiration, an honor and can only hope that when we return, everything will be doubled! Miigwetch.”


“WLCV Institute’s leadership training helped me get outside my comfort zone and feel more prepared to talk to my peers about voting.”
– Adrian King, Lac du Flambeau tribal member


Support the Native Vote Program and help us develop more young tribal leaders who will turn out more conservation voters during the crucial 2016 elections!

Listen: Pow Wow the Vote Program featured on Wisconsin Public Radio.
The Road to November – Getting out the Vote on the Reservation.