Monday, November 12, 2012

Indian vote may have decided Mt., N.D. Senate seats

The New York Times' now-famous number cruncher Nate Silver predicted the outcomes of this year's elections with almost complete accuracy, but missed the Democratic victories in Senate races in North Dakota and Montana. Indian Country's Mark Trahant says Silver miscalculated because his models don't include the Indian vote. "Indian country is the smallest demographic slice of what is America," Trahant writes. "Yet when the history of the 2012 election is written, it must be said, that Indian country outperformed. By any metric."

North Dakota Sen.-elect Heidi Heitkamp and Montana Sen. Jon Tester "not only understood" the importance of the Indian vote, but they "campaigned on reservations hoping that it would be the one factor no one figured," Trahant reports. And they were right. The Montana counties where Indians vote -- Glacier, Roosevelt, Blaine and Big Horn -- were won by Democrats. In Glacier County, which includes the Blackfeet Reservation, total Democratic votes were twice Mitt Romney's. Heitkamp won North Dakota's Sioux County, where 84 percent of the population is Native American, by 83.9 percent. She also won in Rolette and Benson counties, which are both majority Native American.

American Indian and Alaska Native voters turned out in record numbers this election, the National Congress of American Indians reported last week. NCAI executive director Jacqueline Johnson Peta told Trahant it's important for Indians to take credit for their success at the polls and remind politicians when issues affecting Indian country are before them. Native American registered voters outnumber all other racial and ethnic groups in Montana and New Mexico, she said, giving them power on the state level to advocate for issues. (Read more)

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