Voters on South Dakota reservations went to the polls in record force on
Tuesday, surpassing the turnout in recent elections.
Based on final figures from the Secretary of State, the turnout in
eight counties with significant Indian populations was a high of
While this was below the statewide average of 79 percent,
it still represented an increase from the special U.S. House election in June,
when the Indian voter turnout doubled from the
2002 U.S. Senate election.
In Bennett County, for example, turnout was 70 percent,
up from 62 percent in June. The county, situated
between the Pine Ridge Reservation and the Rosebud Sioux
Reservation has an Indian population of 52 percent.
In Buffalo County, home to the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation,
turnout was 76 percent, up from 46 percent in June.
The county has an Indian population of 82 percent.
On the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, turnout was equally
high. Based on the figures, 73 percent in Dewey County voted,
up from 43 percent in June. In Ziebach County, 67 percent voted,
up from 44 percent in June. The Indian population in both
counties is above 70 percent.
The pattern repeated in four other counties where the Indian
population is greater than 50 percent. These counties
were: Corson (67 percent turnout; 61 percent Indian),
Mellette (72 percent turnout; 52 percent Indian),
Shannon (57 percent turnout; 94 percent Indian) and
Todd (65 percent turnout; 86 percent Indian).
In Shannon County, which encompasses the Pine Ridge Reservation,
turnout improved greatly from June, when it was
a mere 31 percent. Going back to 2002, the number of
voters on the reservation increased nearly seven-fold.
A similar story appears in Todd County, home to the Rosebud Sioux
reservation. In June, turnout was just 39 percent. When compared
to 2002, the number of Indian voters jumped
The increase in voter registration and voter turnout is attributed
to efforts by Indian organizations and the Republican and Democrat
parties. South Dakota, with an Indian population of 9 percent, was
a big target due to the tight race between Sen. Tom Daschle
and Republican John Thune, who won on Tuesday.
The National Congress of American Indians organized a nationwide non-partisan
effort to increase the rolls. Tribes, organizations and volunteers worked
in key states to register more Native Americans and get them to vote.
"Native voters turned out to the election polls in greater numbers for
this election day than any other in history," Tex Hall,
NCAI's president, said yesterday.
Brian Drapeau, a member of the Yankton Sioux Tribe in South Dakota,
was the state's coordinator for the Native Vote Project,
a non-partisan organization. "The impact was very good," he
said on the radio program Native America Calling
"We had a tremendous turnout on the reservation."
Based only on the three biggest reservations -- Pine Ridge,
Rosebud Sioux, and Cheyenne River Sioux -- Drapeau said
their average turnout of 66 percent was "historic."
"The tribes have done their part," he said. "They participated at
the level we were hoping to."
The following table lists the turnout in the counties with an Indian population greater than 50 percent. The counties of Charles Mix, Jackson, Lyman and Roberts were excluded because their Indian population was below 50 percent. The June 2004 turnout for Mellette County is not included here because the figure is not readily available from the state.
RESERVATION COUNTY VOTE IN SOUTH DAKOTA
|County ||Total |
|Nov 04 |
BENNETT || 1,717 || 70% ||62% || 52%
BUFFALO || 903 || 76% ||46% || 82%
CORSON ||1,804 || 67% ||40% ||61%
DEWEY || 2,683 || 63% ||43%||74%
MELLETTE ||1,010 || 72% || n/a||52%
SHANNON||4,549 || 57% ||31% || 94%
TODD ||3,691 || 65% || 39%|| 86%
ZIEBACH ||1,115 || 67% || 44%||73%
| Avg Turnout ||67%|
| State Turnout ||79%|
| Total Votes ||17,472|
Secretary of State Data:
Turnout by County