Report analyzes outcome of Native Vote 2004

American Indians and Alaska Natives turned out to the polls last November in record numbers, according to the final report of the Native Vote 2004 campaign.

Released this month by the First Americans Education Project, the report tracked voter participation in eight key states. From Alaska to New Mexico, Native Americans voted in unprecedented numbers at the local, state and federal level, the analysis found.

"While registration and turnout is still below non-Native averages in many parts of the country, many Native communities saw increases of 50 percent to 150 percent in their turnout," the report stated.

Native participation varied widely across the eight states, according to the data. Among the standout successes: a 83 percent turnout in Sandia Pueblo in New Mexico; an 81 percent turnout on the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana and a 77 percent turnout on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin.

But even where the numbers weren't as high, Native Vote efforts indicated dramatic improvements. On the Hopi Reservation in Arizona, for example, turnout jumped from just 30 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2004. On the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, turnout in one precinct went from a record low of 26 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2004.

Overall, Native turnout grew by 11 percentage points last year in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. "A new energy and cultural shift is occurring throughout Indian Country," the report concluded.

Despite the gains, the report noted that several political candidates favored by Native voters failed at the polls. Among those who saw defeat were Kalyn Free, a Choctaw Nation member who lost the Democratic nomination for a Congressional seat in Oklahoma, and former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota), who had strong backing on the state's reservations.

The report also said more effort is needed to reach urban Indians, who represent upwards of 60 percent of the Native American population in the U.S. More than 75,000 tribal members live in the Phoenix area alone, posing special challenges when it comes to identifying and registering voters.

Although American Indians and Alaska Natives make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population, they make up significant portions of the population in several states. In Montana, the high representation has led to the election of eight tribal members to the State Legislature.

Native voters can even make or break a candidate in some elections. In 2000, reservation voters narrowly carried Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota) to victory over then-Congressman John Thune, a Republican. Thune improved his showing on reservations in 2004 although most of the Native votes still went to Daschle.

The data in the report was based on U.S. Census Bureau figures, registration and turnout data from state and local offices and information from Native Vote efforts that were run independently and facilitated by the National Congress of American Indians and National Voice, a non-partisan group that promotes voting.

Get the Report:
Native VOTE 2004: A National Survey and Analysis of Efforts to Increase the Native Vote in 2004 and the Results Achieved (May 2005)

Relevant Links:
First Americans Education Project - http://www.first-americans.net
Native Vote, NCAI -
National Voice - http://www.nationalvoice.org