Advertise:   712.224.5420

Thune gains support of more reservation voters

In the 2002 U.S. Senate race, Republican John Thune lost the Indian vote by wide margins to Democrat Tim Johnson. The lack of support cost him the election by just 524 votes.

But on Tuesday, Thune registered gains on reservations where he was overwhelmingly rejected two years ago. While the Republican candidate in no way came close to matching the support Indian voters showed for Sen. Tom Daschle, a Democrat, he did make improvements from the 2002 tally.

On the Pine Ridge Reservation, for example, Thune received 13 percent of the votes in Shannon County. This was up from the paltry 8 percent he got two years ago. It was also his biggest reservation vote gain.

Nearby on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Thune got 21 percent of the votes in Todd County. He improved his showing from 2002, when he got 19 percent.

On the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, Thune showed some small gains. In Dewey County, he got 27 percent of the votes, up from 25 percent in 2002. But in Ziebach County, he received 33 percent, just about the same in the 2002 election.

In Corson County, which encompasses the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, Thune gained 1 point, from 36 percent in 2002 to 37 percent this year. But in Buffalo County on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation, Thune stayed about the same, with 19 percent of the votes.

After losing in 2002, Thune acknowledged that his campaign did not reach out to Indian Country. This time around, he made a concerted effort to visit the state's reservations, where he met with tribal leaders, attended pow-wows and opened offices, such as one on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

As he has done in the past, Daschle worked the Indian vote heavily and won the backing of all nine South Dakota tribal leaders. The endorsements ensured that the ousted Democratic leader stayed well ahead of Thune on reservations.

But it didn't mean Daschle automatically got a larger percentage of the Indian vote than Johnson did back in 2002. Part of the reason can be traced to the larger number of Indian voters this year.

Tribal organizations and the Democrat and Republican parties sought to register more Indians and get them to vote. On every reservation, turnout increased greatly from 2002 and also from the special election held this past June.

The surge didn't benefit Daschle alone because Thune was able to garner support among the new Indian voters too. Daschle always got more votes than Thune but Thune's percentage increase was dramatic.

For example, Thune received just 248 votes in Shannon County in 2002. This year, he got 564, a whopping 127 percent increase.

In Todd County, he went from 464 votes to 776 votes, a 67 percent increase over the two years.

The following table shows Thune's reservation vote gain in eight counties where the Indian population is above 50 percent.

County Nov 02 Nov 04 Increase
BENNETT 694 729 5%
BUFFALO 153 168 10%
CORSON 573 674 18%
DEWEY 598 705 18%
MELLETTE 399 479 20%
SHANNON 248 564 127%
TODD 464 776 67%
ZIEBACH 321 369 15%

Secretary of State Data:
Turnout by County | County Totals | Statewide Totals | More Results

Historical Data:
County Results: South Dakota Senate Election 2002

Relevant Links:
Sen. Tom Daschle -
Tom Daschle, campaign site -
John Thune for US Senate -