The take away from the 2018 midterm election is simple: Democracy is better when more people vote.
This is Trahant Reports.
So much history was made this election. The first Native American women in Congress, Representatives-elect Deb Haaland, New Mexico, and Sharice Davids, Kansas. Haaland is Laguna Pueblo and Davids is Ho Chunk.
This really has been the year of the Native woman. Add to that: The first elected lieutenant governor of a state, Peggy Flanagan of Minnesota. She is White Earth Nation.
Arizona tripled the number of Native representation in its state Senate. Senators Jamescita Peshlakai, Navajo; Victoria Steele, Seneca; and Mary Ann Gonzales, Pasqua Yacqui, have enough members for a caucus.
Montana now has nine Native American members of its legislature. To put that number in perspective: Native Americans make up seven percent of the Montana Legislature.
California has elected its first ever Native American member of its legislature, Rep.-elect James Ramos, San Manuel. Ramos will represent his tribal community — and San Bernardino — in the legislature.
And that too is an interesting twist. More Native Americans won office representing urban communities in the legislature, such as Rep.-elect Jade Bahr, Northern Cheyenne, in Billings, Montana; Rep-elect Ruth Buffalo, Mandan Hidatsa Arikara, in Fargo, North Dakota; and Ajay Pittman, Seminole, in Oklahoma City.
There will be more Native Americans in public office — across the board.
Let’s look at voters, too.
In Big Horn County, Montana, where the Crow Nation is located, some 5,578 voted in this election. Two years ago, during a presidential election, only 4,168 people voted. Usually the number of voters drops during a midterm.
And that vote made a difference: In Montana Jon Tester won re-election because the Native vote turnout was significant.
Most American Indians voted for Democrats. At least 38 Native Democrats were elected compared to seven Republicans.
But among the Republicans there were some interesting elections, such as Kevin Stitt, a Cherokee citizen, and the first Native American elected to lead Oklahoma. And Tamara St. John, Sisseton Wahpeton. She won a seat in the South Dakota legislature.
What’s next? Several new members of legislatures and Congress have said they want investigations and action on missing and murdered Native women. Others have talked about expanding health care services, including Medicaid. And, perhaps, most important, many of talked about protecting the right of Native Americans to vote. And the timing of that last promise is critical right now because the once a decade census will begin soon and with it the next round of apportionment, drawing the very lines that determine representation. Because democracy is always better when more people vote.
I am Mark Trahant.