Poetic Justice For Native Americans in North Dakota

As Martin noted on Tuesday, the Republican Party is in a death spiral.

An obvious reason why the Republicans are doing so poorly with people under retirement age is that their message is basically a rebellion against the growing diversity of America. That movement isn’t going to slow down and will in fact accelerate regardless of whether or not Trump succeeds in building a southern border wall.

If the Republican Party doesn’t start to adapt, they will suffer increasingly big political losses over time.

In response to that reality, Donald Trump and Republicans have chosen to double-down on their racist fear mongering while attempting to suppress the votes of people of color. As we witnessed in states like Georgia, Brian Kemp focused primarily on suppressing the African American vote. If you have any remaining doubts about that, this story about one woman’s experience should clear that up.

In a lot of ways, the state of North Dakota has very little in common with Georgia. But as we saw in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, the GOP agenda in that state was all about voter suppression as well. In that case, the efforts were designed to suppress the vote of Native Americans.

After Democrat Heidi Heitkamp won the North Dakota senate seat in 2012, Republicans went on to introduce four voter ID bills that made it almost impossible for Native Americans living on tribal lands to vote because they required street addresses, which don’t exist on reservations. There was one member of the state house that sponsored all four of those bills—Randy Boehning—from a Republican district in the Fargo area. Last week Boehning lost his re-election bid. But that’s not the end of the story because he lost to Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation. All told, at the legislative level, angry Native voters flipped at least three red seats blue, including that of state House Majority Leader Al Carlson.

In addition to that bit of poetic justice, this happened:

…galvanized by anger over the state’s voter ID law and aided by the intensive efforts of tribal leaders and advocacy groups, [Native Americans] turned out for last week’s election in numbers unprecedented even for a presidential election, much less a midterm.

In Sioux County, where the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is, turnout was up 105 percent from the last midterm elections in 2014 and 17 percent from the 2016 presidential election, according to data from the North Dakota secretary of state’s office. In Rolette County, home to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, it was up 62 percent from 2014 and 33 percent from 2016. In Benson County, home to the Spirit Lake Nation, it was up 52 percent from 2014 and 10 percent from 2016.

In other words, attempts by Republicans in North Dakota to suppress the Native American vote backfired rather spectacularly.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .