Apache voter outreach

Edith Starr is the new voter outreach specialist with the Gila County Recorder’s Office.

If you haven’t taken a moment to appreciate your right to vote, consider this: women didn’t have the right to vote until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. And it took another four years before the Snyder Act of 1924 guaranteed that right for Apaches and Native Americans nationwide.

Gila County Recorder Sadie Bingham strives for all eligible voters to be registered — and aware of deadlines and dates approaching with the November 2020 election. The latest example of innovation in her office is a new staffer, hired for a skill set that’s wholly unique to Gila County: fluency in Apache language.

Edith Starr’s job is to register and educate voters on the San Carlos, White Mountain and Tonto Apache Reservations. Hired in September, Starr is traveling across Gila County to register Apache voters (and non-Apache voters too); answer their questions; and update voter records.

Learn more about Gila County Recorder Sadie Bingham, and the mission of her office at gilacountyaz.gov/government/recorder; connect at facebook.com/gilacountyrecorder for updates about voter registration deadlines and election dates during 2020.

Starr took time out from her countywide travel schedule for a brief interview about her work, and her plans for voter recruitment over the coming winter and spring.

Question: Were you raised speaking Apache? What two items on your resumé prepared you for this singular new job?

Answer: “I’m a member of the San Carlos Apache Nation, and I’m thankful to my family that I was raised speaking our Apache language. Learning the value of my language, our culture and traditions has infused the person I am today. Being able to understand and speak Apache has given me so many opportunities — maybe my earliest was serving as an ambassador for our people and traveling throughout Arizona and the Southwest when I had the honor of serving as Miss San Carlos Apache during 2010-2011. After high school I earned my degree in political science at Eastern Arizona College, then further study at Arizona State University brought degrees in public service, public policy and homeland security. I’ve worked with our Apache Language Preservation program and interned for our Tribal Chairman, Terry Rambler. These gave me valuable experience with a variety of Tribal government and offices.

Question: What challenges are unique to enrolling Apache voters?

Answer: “Gila County includes three federally recognized tribes that face similar issues: people ask, “Why should I vote?” Being from the San Carlos community I can relate to that discouraging feeling of “my vote doesn’t matter,” and I’m now in a position to explain why that’s not true — a message I can voice in both English and Apache. My goals are to find person-to-person opportunities, public events, and media outreach to give straightforward information about how to register, how to update your enrollment, and to get out and vote — because all of our votes do matter.

Question: Explain a bit more about that?

Answer: “Gila County is a diverse community, as of today we have 30,287 active voters, and 2,378 of San Carlos Apache. We also have 514 White Mountain Apache registered voters, and 58 from the Tonto Apache Tribe. Statistically, the largest registrants age group in Gila County is seniors, we have 8,015 voters age 65 to 74 years old. Compare that with the lowest registrants age group, age 18 to 24 ranking at 2,083 voters. The importance of the 2020 election is an opportunity to encourage the younger generation not only to register, but to vote.

Question: What voter registration events are you planning? May readers email, call or invite you to setup a voter registration table or event?

Answer: “Reaching all three geographically spread-out Apache communities is a challenge, one that Gila County voter outreach is ready to tackle. Attending events and setting up voter registration drives, information relating to the electoral process and promoting the right to vote. We are at work on a strategic plan, and welcome new ideas — recruiting voters means in-person communication, news articles and interviews like this one — and building the relationship between our Apache communities and the Gila County Recorder’s Office. This interview is an opportunity to introduce myself and also Gila County Voter Outreach Coordinator Katie Judd, if they need our help registering to vote — or answering any questions, they’re welcome to call 928-425-3231, extension 8735, or toll-free 800-291-4452, or please email estarr@gilacountyaz.gov or kjudd@gilacountyaz.gov or connect with us on facebook.com/gilacountyrecorder.

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