2012: Native Voters Tip the Balance in North Dakota

2012: Native Voters Tip the Balance in North Dakota

The Problem

Native voter turnout plummeted more than 40 percent in 2010 after record levels of turnout during the 2008 presidential election. With an open U.S. Senate seat at stake in 2012, Native voter turnout needed to return to 2008 levels for Native voters to make a difference.

The Four Directions Approach

Four Directions implemented a GOTV program with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. Over five days, Four Directions accomplished the following goals:

1. Identified, hired, and trained 20 Election Day organizers

Far too often, outside organizations bring in outside individuals to run GOTV programs on reservations. Four Directions always hires local recognized Native voters for our GOTV programs.

2. Message tested issues that motivate Natives to vote

Four Directions never makes assumptions about Native voters. Right away, we brought together a representative sample of Native voters throughout Sioux County to identify important issues. In this case, Native voters were most moved to vote by issues of treaty rights and Tribal sovereignty.


Native voter turnout increased 43% over the previous election on the North Dakota Standing Rock Reservation. In total, the three counties in North Dakota with Indian reservations and the largest majority Native American populations delivered 4,282 votes with the U.S. Senate election decided by 2,994 votes.

Native voters again decided the outcome of an important federal election in part as a result of the Four Directions approach.

Tester, Heikamp score victories with Native vote



How the Indian vote boosted Heidi Heitkamp


INDIANZ.COM; 11.8.12

Indian vote crucial to Heitkamp and Tester wins


Four Directions, Inc., is a 501(c)4 organization. Contributions to Four Directions, Inc. are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes and are not subject to public disclosure. Contributions to the Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT), a federally chartered corporation organized and jointly owned and controlled by member tribes, for Native voting rights work are tax-deductible to the donor as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes and are not subject to public disclosure of any kind.