FROM THE ARCHIVE
Indians vote overwhelmingly for Johnson
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2002

Indian voters in South Dakota helped Senator Tim Johnson (D) win a narrow election night victory, according to a county-by-county analysis of the results.

With all precincts reporting, Johnson received 167,481 votes to Republican challenger John Thune's 166,954. The small vote difference was within the margin for a statewide recount that would occur later this month.

But among counties with a large Indian population, the difference was much larger. Native voters chose Johnson overwhelmingly.

In Shannon County, which encompasses the Pine Ridge Reservation, Johnson took 92 percent of the vote. The county has a 94 percent Native population.

Nearby Todd County, home to the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, is 85 percent Indian. Here, Johnson took 81 percent of the vote.

The tally on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation was similar. In Dewey County, Johnson's 75 percent of the vote matched the 74 percent Indian population. And in Ziebach County, which is 72 percent Indian, he got 66 percent.

Numbers from the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation also showed the trend. In Corson County, 62 percent of voters picked Johnson. The county has a 60 percent Native population.

These counties offset Thune's wins elsewhere in the state. But even in counties where the race was much closer, Indian votes helped carry Johnson.

A prominent example is Charles Mix County, which is home to the Yankton Sioux Reservation but also a majority white population (69%). Here, Johnson barely won with 52 percent to Thune's 47 percent.

And in Bennett County, which has a majority Indian population (52%) from Pine Ridge but also a large white demographic, the split was 56 percent for Johnson and 43 percent for Thune.

The numbers reflected the intense Democratic outreach effort among Indian Country, one that was marred in the closing weeks of the campaign by allegations of voter fraud. The scandal, which has centered over two paid contractors, did not discourage Native turnout, however.

The results also were solid evidence of Native voting power. In 2000, Washington tribal members were credited with helping defeat Slade Gorton's Senate bid.

But the analysis in that race showed that Gorton won decisively in rural areas and reservations compared to Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell's successful urban run. In Johnson's case, on the other hand, the Indian turnout was clear.

According to the Census 2000, Native Americans make up 8.3 percent of the population. To determine the impact of the Indian vote, data from a May 2001 Census report on South Dakota was compared to election results posted on CNN's web site.

Relevant Data:
2000 Census of Population and Housing: South Dakota (Census Bureau) | South Dakota Senate Election Results by County (CNN)

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