GRIC hosts virtual Census and Get Out the Vote Rally

Kyle Knox

Gila River Indian News



On Saturday, Sept. 19, the Gila River Indian Community hosted the first ever virtual Census & Get Out the Vote Rally in an effort to encourage Community members to complete the 2020 Census and participate in the Nov. 3 elections. The virtual event was broadcasted live through Gila River Broadcast Corp., channels 19.1 and 29.1 and Facebook Live page and featured tribal leadership, elders, youth, and state and federal elected officials.


Live guests included state Rep. T.J. Shope (R-Coolidge), Congressman Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Arizona Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Stacy Abrams representing Fair Count.


Congresswoman Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), Sen. Martha McSally, and Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly also provided prerecorded messages for the rally. 


Community Council representatives also appeared in videos urging viewers to vote and to complete their Census forms.


Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis delivered remarks following Lt. Gov. Robert Stone’s opening prayer. 

“The 2020 election is the election of a lifetime, probably the biggest in our lifetimes,” said Gov. Lewis as he mentioned issues that will affect the Community. 


Gov. Lewis was also adamant about the Census and increasing the number of Community members to complete their forms. At the time of the rally, early results showed a low number of members who did the Census. In a Sept. 28 video, Gov. Lewis announced that the Community was still undercounted by 30 percent.


In his address, Lt. Gov. Stone provided a history of the struggle for Native Americans to vote in state and national elections, citing the 1928 Peter Porter and Rudolph Johnson case against the Arizona Supreme Court, which the Supreme Court denied. A video followed on the late Mr. Johnson and Mr. Porter.


It wasn’t until 1948 when Frank Harrison and Harry Austin, two Ft. McDowell Yavapai Nation members, secured the right to vote for Native Americans in Arizona.


Haaland’s message touched on the rallies dual purpose for GRIC members to vote and to complete their census.


“Representation matters and each of you counts, your vote counts and we need you to be counted in the census.”


The rally’s synergy provided viewers the full scope of the history of voting for Native Americans and the civic duty everyone has to fill out the census and exercise their right to vote.


Chief Judge Joseph Manuel Sr., grandson of Rudolph Johnson stated, “[Voting] means so much because we count in everything and we’re able to say that we’ve done our civic responsibility to our tribal nations, to the county, to the state of Arizona. So be sure to get out and vote because it means everything.”


Jr. Miss Gila River Sineca Jackson introduced Abrams who launched the non-profit group “Fair Count” to ensure that hard to count populations are represented in the 2020 Census. “I know when the Gila River Indian Community succeeds, I succeed,” said Abrams.


The rally also called on elders and youth to offer insight into this important time of the year. Youth representatives included Thalia Ayala and Monique Makil and Miss Gila River Alyse Marrietta moderated a panel with elders Bonnie Lyons and Joe Biakeddy. 


The rally has been replayed several times in its entirety on GRBC and will air again Saturday, Oct. 3, at 6:30 p.m. You can also re-watch the stream on Facebook by searching Gila River Broadcasting Corporation.