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Stephanie Woodard: Native vote plays role in control of Senate





Stephanie Woodard reports on the power of the Native vote in Montana in light of the retirement of Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana):
The decision of U.S. Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana) not to run in 2014 means that the state’s Native vote could be very important next year. Just as tribal members pulled Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) across the finish line in his neck-and-neck 2012 race, they may decide the upcoming contest, says Blackfeet tribal member Tom Rodgers, of Carlyle Consulting and voting-rights group Four Directions. That, in turn, will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. “If the 2014 senatorial race is anything like 2012, there may be a two-to-three-point difference between the candidates, and the Native vote can easily make the decision,” Rodgers says.

Native influence will be even greater if an ongoing lawsuit (Mark Wandering Medicine v. Linda McCulloch, now before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals) to require satellite election offices on Montana reservations succeeds, according to Rodgers. “With satellite registration and voting, Indian turnout will skyrocket—and the only way to get political power is to affect political outcomes.”

Both major parties see the potential of the Native vote. The Montana GOP is talking to the Republican National Committee about funding a staff position to do outreach in tribal communities, according to state party executive director Bowen Greenwood. “When a race is close, every vote counts,” says Greenwood, who argues that Native beliefs in tradition and caring for the land and their desire for economic development match Republican ideals.

Get the Story:
Stephanie Woodard: Montana's Native Vote Could Decide US Senate Control (Indian Country Today 4/26)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Sen. Baucus of Montana showed true staying power (4/24)
Sen. Max Baucus of Montana to announce plans for retirement (4/23)