As Nevadans cast their early votes before Saturday’s presidential caucus, some say campaigns are missing out on one key voting bloc: tribes.
Nevada has 27 federally-recognized tribes. But until this election, campaigns haven’t been doing much to reach them.
Brian Melendez is an enrolled tribal citizen with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, and the chair of the Nevada Statewide Native American Caucus, an organization formed late last year to get more tribal members to the polls. He says because the U.S. Census typically undercounts people on tribal lands, campaigns often ignore their political power.
“If we can get those people in every single county, in every single reservation to participate, it would completely shift and change and challenge the shape and the political space of Nevada,” said Melendez.
He says reservations are in rural counties, and that means if native voters come out in large numbers, it could change the political landscape in unforeseen ways.
“Whatever we pull out in Nevada will be representative of what happens in the country, and that is [the] exact same thing for tribes,” Melendez said. “So, whatever we can do in the tribal space in Nevada, we’re hoping to replicate in every other tribal space in the country.”
Long-term, he says the goal is to get more native people elected to local and national office.