Election Turnout & Registration Rate, By Race & Ethnicity, November 2008
American Indians and Alaska Natives voting rates are among the lowest of all racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. Almost two out of five eligible American Indians and Alaska Natives are not registered to vote. Even among registered American Indians and Alaska Natives, the turnout rate is 5 to 14 percentage points lower than that of many of the registered voters of other racial and ethnic groups.
Turnout among American Indians and Alaska Natives is inherently difficult to assess given that this is a relatively small population (the U.S. Census Current Population Survey did not even separate American Indians and Alaska Natives out as a category until 1990). But the studies that have been done confirm the Census data indicating that voter turnout among American Indians and Alaska Natives is low. For example, Geoffrey Peterson’s study of the 1990 and 1992 elections, one of the more comprehensive analyses done, concludes that American Indian and Alaska Native voter turnout is lower relative to other groups even when socio-economic levels are controlled. In another study, Peterson finds that “counties with a high proportion of Native Americans tend to have lower turnout rates compared to counties with a low proportion of Native Americans.”3 Jerry Stubben similarly finds that American Indian and Alaska Native voting rates were relatively low throughout federal elections in the 1990s. Analysis of specific counties with high Native populations shows a similar trend.