Five enrolled tribal citizens -- three Democrats and two Republicans -- are running for Congress in 2016. The three Democrats are challenging Republican incumbents who might be in danger due to associations with Donald Trump. The two Republicans are incumbents but are not facing serious challenges from their Democratic opponents.
Graphic by Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports
#NativeVote16 – A landslide? That would be great news for Native challengers
By Mark Trahant
What does a landslide look like? And, more important, what would that mean for Native American candidates?
First: Hillary Clinton is peaking at the ideal moment. And, at the same time, Donald Trump’s campaign is imploding. He had a bad week, a poor debate, and he’s out of time to change the conversation. But more important than all of that there is no Trump organization, people on the ground methodically reminding people to vote. Instead of running a campaign designed to build a winning coalition, Trump chose to defy math and narrow his base of support.
One hint at what’s to come on Election Day is found in the data of early voting.
According to CNN, working with a data company, Calalist, says more than 3.3 million Americans have already voted. And based on demographic profiles, Democrats are stronger now than they were four years ago in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.
“Democratic early turnout has stayed steady in North Carolina compared to 2012, while Republicans have dropped by about 14,500. In Nevada, Democrats have a smaller early voting deficit today than they did at this point in 2012,” CNN reports. “And Democrats are slightly ahead in Arizona in the early vote so far, though they are lagging Republicans in the tally of how many Arizonans have requested ballots.”
The U.S. Elections Project publishes the most comprehensive collection of data, a spreadsheet of early voting statistics from across the country. Already there are some interesting numbers (spreadsheet here). North Carolina breaks down returned early voting ballots by gender and 56 percent of them so far are from women. In 2012 53 percent of the state’s electorate was female.
To put that number in perspective: Across the country women were 53 recent of the total electorate in 2012 and were the key bloc for President Obama’s re-election. A three percent increase would produce a landslide.
We don’t know the break down by gender in other states but there is data about the number of ballots received.
In Montana, where Denise Juneau is running for Congress, requests for early ballots are up by 15 percent from four years ago. As of 310,990 ballots have been mailed or requested and 43,639 have been returned.
And, in North Dakota, there have been 67,837 requests for ballots and 25,662 people have already voted (including me.) Chase Iron Eyes is a candidate for Congress, Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun is runnng for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and Ruth Buffalo is on the ballot for the state’s insurance commissioner. They are running on the Democratic-NPL ticket.
South Dakota did not have early voting in 2012, but it’s now available, and 48,564 ballots have been requested. Henry Red Cloud is the Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commissioner.
There are no early voting numbers for Washington state (where most people vote by mail) or in the Oklahoma congressional districts. (Republicans Tom Cole and MarkWayne Mullin are in seats that are not competitive.)
Back to my lede: What would a landslide mean for the Native American candidates? If women vote in higher percentages than in 2012 that would be really good news for Juneau, Joe Pakootas in Washington, and for Iron Eyes, Hunte-Bueaubrun and Buffalo. Would it be enough to erase a Republican advantage? That remains the open question.
But a presidential landslide could be a factor. What happens is that some voters like to be associated with victory, so they switch to the winning teamside. And, at the same time, other voters are disillusioned and just stay home. That really impacts down ballot races. (Northern Idaho often has this problem because networks “call” the state when the polls close in the Mountain time zone while there is still an hour to vote in the Pacific time zone.)
Of course not every presidential election results in a down ballot landslide. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide did not flip the House and Republicans picked up 16 seats. Democrats would need 30 to control the House.
Mark Trahant is the Charles
R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North
Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of the Shoshone-Bannock
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