Election Day is just a month away — so let’s talk about politics … and the Native vote.
This is Trahant Reports.
This is a record year for Native people running for office. There are more Native candidates — and especially more women running — than ever before. But what about the other races? Races where there are no Native American on the ballot, and where Native issues are rarely (if at all) explored.
One state that has to be at the top of any such discussion is North Dakota.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, is running against Rep. Kevin Cramer, a Republican. Both have won statewide races.
Heitkamp is an independent Democrat, one who will sometimes support President Donald J. Trump.
This is a philosophical race for Indian Country.
More tribal voters have promised to never vote for Heitkamp again (the Native vote was critical to her win six years ago) because of what they say are her failures to lead during Standing Rock and the Dakota Access Pipeline debate. The perception is that she was on the side of DAPL. As Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun, Standing Rock, who ran for Public Service Commission two years ago, told the Associated Press, “We rallied so hard for her, but when her hand was forced she basically sold out to big oil.”
But when it comes to Big Oil, Cramer is even more supportive than Heitkamp. His finance committee is led by Harold Hamm, one of the architects of North Dakota’s energy policy. He is chairman of Continental Resources, the biggest leaseholder in the Bakken oil basin.
So why is this race philosophical? Because it begs the question which would-be senator would be there on some issues, all of the time?
Heitkamp is one of the best in the Senate on Native issues ranging from violence against women to making sure the Census counts every tribal citizen. She’s supported Native American provisions in the Farm Bill, including a Tribal Food and Security Act.
Cramer supports a few tribal issues, but his primary argument is that he is a North Dakota voice that the president listens to on energy issues.
And that includes dismissing the science of global warming.
Nearly 6 percent of North Dakotans are tribal citizens. North Dakota has no voter registration, and because of a court order, people can show up at the polls, register, and vote on the same day. But one challenge for North Dakota is rural addressing. State law requires an “address,” something that’s not uniform across Indian Country.
An earlier judge found that nearly half of all Native Americans lacked state-ordered identification to vote in North Dakota and at least 2,300 citizens would be prevented from voting.
Still the Native American vote, obstacles or not, will matter because the state is so small.
I am Mark Trahant.