Success Story: Catawba Nation
For many reasons, including the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Catawba Nation decided to conduct its General Council meetings virtually – and it needed a voting solution that could enable the tribe to make decisions in the new format. It chose DirectVoteLive, and experienced a range of benefits that have had a transformational impact on the tribe.
About the Catawba Nation
The Catawba Nation has lived on its ancestral lands along the banks of the Catawba River dating back at least 6,000 years, and today it is the only federally recognized tribe located in the state of South Carolina. The Catawba Nation’s ancestral territory also covers portions of North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, but they have citizens across the world. There are currently over 3,300 enrolled members of the Nation, which has a long history and a rich culture that lives on today.
For more information, visit https://www.catawba.com/.
At least twice each year, the Catawba Nation’s General Council of 2,500 current voting members (all adults in the tribe) is invited to gather. During these meetings, the General Council considers and makes decisions on matters ranging from items relating to the tribe’s assets and businesses to larger tribal government, laws and leadership. Such meetings have been held in person, in accordance with traditions that have been carried forth for centuries.
As the years have passed, many of the Catawba’s adult members have moved away from the tribe’s ancestral lands for various reasons. This has made it harder for many citizens to continue to participate in General Council. This means that not only will some citizens have difficulty exercising their rights as General Council members, but the Nation will not receive input and votes from all of the citizens they serve. The COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated these challenges by making it unsafe to meet and make decisions in person.
In order for the Catawba Nation to continue conducting its essential business, they decided to pivot to a hybrid operating and decision-making model, with both virtual and in-person participation options for citizens. As part of that, they needed a virtual platform that could enable all General Council members to participate and vote. Also, because many citizens have little or no experience with computers and technology (an example of the digital divide that still disproportionately affects many tribes), it needed to be exceedingly simple to learn and use.
After a thorough search and review process, Catawba Nation chose DirectVoteLive: a software-as-a-service platform that enables voting groups to securely conduct their business regardless of whether people are connecting in person, virtually or in a hybrid meeting. It also chose Zoom to be the teleconferencing tool to conduct its General Council meetings.
Administrators then worked in partnership with the DirectVoteLive team to ensure their votes were a success. This included learning the platform, successfully onboarding the tribe’s General Council and conducting test meetings.
Results and Benefits
The Catawba Nation’s use of DirectVoteLive has been nothing short of transformational:
- It has held several General Council meetings already, and all votes have taken place without a hitch. As a result, the tribe’s essential business has continued unimpeded.
- The Catawba Nation is experiencing record participation in General Council sessions. At the tribe’s January 2022 meeting, a record 292 voting members participated – and there was a quorum present for the entire seven-hour meeting.
- Everyone has been pleased with how easy the platform is to use. The overall level of technical experience within the tribe hasn’t been an obstacle to successful voting.
- Administrators also are pleased with the high level of security DirectVoteLive has. They love being able to select between confidential and open votes, and the steps the platform takes to ensure voter integrity has created trust and buy-in from tribe leaders and General Council members.
- Prior to using DirectVoteLive, but after the start of COVID-19, the Nation opted to use mail-in ballots to vote. After the General Council meeting was held, ballots could take up to four weeks at that time to reach all General Council members, and then had to be returned, taking another 14-30 days. This meant that the results of votes took 1-2 months to receive. Now, with DirectVoteLive and its real-time vote tabulation, vote outcomes are instantaneous and operations can proceed much faster.
Given this remarkable success, the Catawba Nation is looking to continue using DirectVoteLive for all its future General Council meetings.
Attributed to Laney Buckley, Director of Community Services for the Catawba Nation:
“Because of our new virtual systems, including DirectVoteLive, I’ve seen incredible and heart-warming changes in the lives of our citizens. Lots of people are connecting with our tribe for the first time in years, or generations. We’re seeing new community leaders develop and shine, and for the first time, their votes will help shape the future of Catawba.”
“I’m 26 years old, and a victim of the digital divide, I didn’t grow up with a computer in my home. I never imagined I’d be running online meetings like the ones we offer now. I needed someone who could help me learn and grow quickly, and help me manage this process from the beginning to the end without adding stress to an already challenging transition. SBS has been just fantastic – the customer service they provide adds a lot of value to me.”