Just how important will the Native vote be this election year?
Marnee Banks of KXLH examines that question for Montanans in her piece “Campaign Battleground: Montana’s Native Americans.”
Both Democratic and Republican parties in the state acknowledge the importance of the vote.
John Bennion, the author of “Big Sky Politics,” has studied the political landscape in Montana and how it impacts elections.
“If you look at the Native American reservations, they are very rural areas of the state and they tend to vote Democratic,” Bennion says.
However, in an unprecedented wave of Republican sentiment, conservatives won two legislative districts (House Districts 16 and 41) on the reservations last election.
One Native leader in the state sees Native support going to those who can create jobs on reservations. (See Banks’ full video here.)
Montana Representative Tony Belcourt (D – Box Elder) represents a portion of the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation.
He agrees with Bennion saying Native Americans typically vote Democrat, but he adds people need to realize Native Americans are an independent population. Belcourt says the problem is getting those 60,000 voters to the polls so their voices can be heard.
“You look at reservations with double digit increases in population, compared to the last Census, and the local towns and counties surrounding reservations are growing, but we don’t see them participating in the legislative process,” Belcourt says. “Hopefully we can change that with the grassroots efforts like Montana Indian Democratic Caucus.”