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Reservation voting peaks, to Franken’s benefit

If Al Franken wins, one of the many factors he can credit is a continuing turnout rise in the state’s Native American areas.
By David Brauer

Remember the Bush administration’s U.S. Attorney appointment scandal? The second-term dumping ensnared Minnesota’s Tom Heffelfinger, who was planning to resign anyway, but was targeted because he was “spending an excessive amount of time” on Indian issues, according to former Justice Department official Monica Goodling.

One of the issues swirling at the time was Native voting rights; Heffelfinger has said he didn’t get crossways with the Bushies on that particular issue, but now we know why they might’ve been worried.

Bemidji Pioneer reporter Brad Swenson writes that reservation turnout hit an all-time high — up 6 percent over 2004, which in turn was up about 50 percent over 2000. All told, Swenson notes, 95 percent of this year’s votes went to Democrats:

… the vote for president was 2,082 for Democrat Barack Obama and 123 for Republican John McCain. Similarly, in the U.S. Senate race, there were 1,983 votes for Democrat Al Franken and 146 for incumbent GOP Norm Coleman. Independence Party candidate Dean Barkley got 66 votes.

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The story explains how the Native American Vote Alliance of Minnesota did it. On the financial side, Swenson says NAVA “received not only tribal support but also funds from Take Action Minnesota, Minnesota Civic Engagement Table, Minnesota Council of Non-Profits and the National Congress of American Indians.”

Those groups are allowed to help nonpartisan voter-reg efforts even if they have partisan outcomes. In an election so tight, those extra hundred or so Red Lake DFL votes are especially meaningful. So far, no one has alleged recound-related malfeasance on the rez, or among Natives Americans voting elsewhere. But as this story gets wider play, stay tuned.