Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s new book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.
FAIRBANKS, Alaska – The election is nearly a week away and predictions are cheaper than a cup of bad coffee. “We see good news for Republicans,” says The New York Times in its blog, fivethirtyeight.com “Although not necessarily better news for them than is already implied by the polling.” So Democrats say they will do better than expected. And Republicans are all but promising they will run the next government. Of course every prediction is backed by the latest polls.
But here is one prediction you won’t read in the press: Not a single poll will capture what’s going on with Indian Country voters during this election cycle. The science of polling doesn’t work very well with small population groups living in rural or isolated locations.
That’s too bad because it would be interesting and useful to know what’s in the mind of American Indian and Alaska Native voters this cycle.
Consider the race for U.S. Senator from Alaska. The only way that Lisa Murkowski returns to that office is if Alaska Native voters turn out in large numbers and write her name on the ballot. (She lost the Republican primary but is continuing her candidacy as a write-in candidate.)
The Alaska Federation of Natives last week endorsed Murkowski by acclamation at its annual convention here in Fairbanks. This was after the senator gave a keynote talk where she listed at length many of the accomplishments in Congress related to Alaska Native issues.
This represents one antidote to the so-called enthusiasm gap. If the AFN delegates can translate their organizational support into community support on Election Day, then Sen. Murkowski will be re-elected. (The Republican nominee, Joe Miller, has also tried to woo AFN support at least from individual members and the Democrat Scott McAdams promised to shake 5,000 hands at the convention in his bid for native votes.)
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Tags: afn, Alaska, Alaska Federation of Natives, chris deschene, diane benson, indian country voters, lisa murkowski, Mark Trahant, native voting