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Old 07-09-2004, 11:49 PM   #1
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Indian vote could decide Senate majority, presidential election

Indian vote could decide Senate majority, presidential election

Posted: June 18, 2004 - 10:09am EST
by: Jerry Reynolds / Washington D.C. correspondent / Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON - It is still early for the 2004 presidential elections, early enough that every crystal ball is bound to be cloudy.

Even so, this much can be said with certainty: events have fallen out in such a way as to position the Indian vote for decisive influence on Nov. 2. In fact, the Native vote has never been so crucial to the prospects of a president, nor to the majority party in the Senate.

This is due to two factors: a polarization in American politics that has led each presidential candidate to concede the electoral vote in about 30 states to his rival, as a foregone conclusion; and an anticipated tight election in which the winner, as in 2000, may be crowned by only a handful of electoral votes.

Those votes will come from 16 or 17 so-called "battleground states," states that were decided by 6 percent of the vote or less in 2000. (Another three or four states, namely Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana and perhaps New Jersey, lean Republican or Democrat now, but could become battleground states if the other party focuses resources on putting them into play.)

Among the current battleground states, where the candidates are concentrating a majority of their time and money, Indian people hold the "swing vote" - the key few percentage points of total popular votes that could swing electoral votes whichever way they are cast - in a handful of them.

Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan … in each of these, the presidential race is expected to be exceedingly close, as they were in 2004 with Bush taking the electoral votes of Arizona and Nevada by 5 and 4 percent respectively, and Democratic candidate Al Gore landing the others, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin by less than 1 percent, Minnesota by 2 percent, Washington by 4 percent and Michigan by 5.

And in each, the Native population is positioned to provide the few percentage points of the total popular vote that would deliver electoral votes to the victor.

In several of these states and South Dakota as well, Senate races will also be close-run. South Dakota provided a presage of that scenario on June 1. Stephanie Herseth, a Democrat, defeated Republican Larry Diedrich in a special election to fill the seat of William Janklow, forced to resign from the House of Representatives following his conviction for felony manslaughter in a traffic death. Herseth’s margin of victory was 2,981 votes out of 261,773, or 51 percent to 49. Indian voters cast ballots in record numbers, more than doubling their turnout in several Indian-populous counties that include the Rosebud, Pine Ridge, Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock reservations. The Indian vote is widely credited with delivering a Senate seat to Democrat Tim Johnson, by only 524 ballots, in 2002, and both parties said it delivered again on June 1.

Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican in the House, said that without the Indian vote, the Republican candidate would have prevailed. Tom Daschle, Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, called the special election "yet another race where the Native vote made the difference."

Herseth will fill the remainder of Janklow’s term before facing the voters again for a full term in November. In the meantime, she becomes the 205th Democrat in the House, joining 228 Republicans and one Independent.

The Senate is still more closely divided, with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one Independent.

Though the presidential race will be the focus of the Nov. 4 elections, the House and Senate contests are no less important. In both chambers, the majority party dominates committee structure, deciding which bills come up for a vote and which are tabled, which "riders" get a hearing and which do not. In addition, the more votes a minority party can count on, the more likely it will be to keep majority bills from coming to a vote through parliamentary maneuvers such as the filibuster, or deliberately prolonged debate. As the current 108th Congress so far proves on several counts, even the fate legislation favored by a sitting president, in a Congress his party controls, may come to depend on good will from the minority party.

The unprecedented potential impact of the Indian vote in 2004 can be reckoned from the simple fact that in some states, Indian voters can swing the vote for both the presidency - and the majority party in the Senate.

The National Congress of American Indians is spearheading efforts to turn out more Indian voters in 2004 than ever before. NCAI takes note of the following figures:

* In Alaska, Alaska Natives make up 16 percent of eligible voters. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican appointed to fill the Senate seat of her father, Frank Murkowski, after he became the state’s governor, is up for re-election.

* In Arizona, almost 300,000 Indians make up 5.7 percent of the state’s population.

* In Colorado, Indians make up 1.5 percent of the population. With Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell retiring, one Senate seat is open.

* In Michigan, Indians make up 1.3 percent of the state’s population; in Minnesota, 1.6 percent.

* In Nevada, where Republican Sen. Harry Reid is up for re-election, the Indian percentage of the population is 2.1.

* In New Mexico, Indians are 10.5 percent of the population.

* In North Dakota, where Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Democrat, is up for re-election, Indians are 5.5 percent of the population.

* In Oklahoma, where Republican Sen. Don Nickles is up for re-election, Native people make up 8 percent of the total population.

* In Oregon, where Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden is up for re-election, Indians make up 2.5 percent of the state population.

* In South Dakota, 9 percent of the state population is Indian. Sen. Tom Daschle, the Democratic Minority Leader, is up for re-election. As mentioned above, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth, winner of a special election to the House of Representatives June 1, will face the voters again in November.

* In Utah, where Republican Sen. Robert Bennett is up for re-election, Indians make up 1.8 percent of the population.

* In Washington, where Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is up for re-election, Indians are 2.7 percent of the state’s population.

* In Wisconsin, where Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is up for re-election, Indians make up 1.3 percent of the population.

Of course, none of these races will be decided on Indian issues alone. In Arizona and New Mexico, the Hispanic vote will play a large role. In Nevada, President Bush’s decision to make Yucca Mountain, northwest of Las Vegas, the national nuclear waste dump is not expected to play well with the state’s Republican-leaning electorate. In the industrial economy enclaves of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, jobs are said to be the major issue, but President Bush’s approval rating is declining almost commensurate with a resurgent job market. In Oregon and Washington, Democratic challenger John Kerry is expected to benefit from the coastal states’ environmental concerns. And throughout the battleground states, recent polls have found Arab citizens abandoning Bush.

But the closer the 2004 elections become, the more prominently loom Indian people as holders of a decisive swing vote. If there is one issue that unites all Indian voters as they weigh the different candidates, NCAI has suggested it: "We will not support candidates who do not support our sovereignty."
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This article can be found at http://www.indiancountry.com/?1087567876
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Old 07-12-2004, 06:19 PM   #2
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thanks for sharing this! good to know!
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Old 07-12-2004, 08:32 PM   #3
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We should all be voting ! Are'nt folks tired of having the non natives decide who makes decisions regarding our rights? I know as a haudenosaunee that the two row wampum says to stay in our canoe and not interfere with the US government but they interefere in ours all the time. And when it comes to them making decisions and rules about what we can or cannot do as a nation, we not only have a right by their laws to vote, but should..at the very least on matters concerning the indian nations and presidential elections.
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