For the last thirty years, Arizona has been a steady and unassailable red.
The Republican stronghold last voted for a Democrat for president in 1996, when Bill Clinton was elected. Donald Trump won Arizona in 2016 by four points. And yet this year, despite a tight contest, the Associated Press and other news outlets including CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post have all called Arizona for Biden.
Along with the changing demographics of the state, some analysts are pointing to the role of the Navajo Nation in pushing the state blue.
According to Vox, 60-90% of Navajo Nation’s roughly 670,000 eligible voters voted for Biden. Biden is currently leading in Arizona by less than 12,000 votes.
Members of the Navajo Nation often face high barriers to voting. Many people are not assigned a physical address and are unable to register to vote. Tara Benally, field director for the Rural Utah Project, talked to NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly about how the organization managed to register 4,000 Native American voters in Arizona.
The project worked with Google to provide GPS coordinates in lieu of physical addresses. Organizers also left thousands of Ziploc bags with voter registration forms on the doors of Native American voters, to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
Hoping to increase young Native American voter turn-out, Allie Young, a 30 year-old member of the Navajo Nation, started “Ride to the Polls” in October. According to The Washington Post, She led groups of voters, ranging from 18-30, ten miles on horseback to reach polling stations in Kayenta, Arizona.
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the Navajo Nation. In May, the tribe’s coronavirus infection rate became the highest in the country. It lost many elders, who carried traditions, to the virus. The Navajo community is once again facing “uncontrolled spread.”
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told Fronteras that he looked forward to working with the Biden-Harris administration.
Reflecting on Navajo peoples’ unprecedented turnout he said: “I appreciate meeting with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in Phoenix … [we had] a dialogue, and I think those types of events really inspired the Native American voters to come out to the polls and cast their votes for change.”