Indian vote mixed in historic presidential race
Despite an unprecedented outreach by president-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, some states with significant Indian populations safely sided with Republican John McCain on election day.

Indian voters have played a difference in close elections, especially in states like Montana and South Dakota. But this year, their power wasn't enough to push the two states, which went Republican in 2004, to the Democratic side.

Obama made history by campaigning on the Crow Reservation in Montana in May and by launching impressive outreach efforts among American Indian and Alaska Native voters there. Native Americans make up 6.3 percent of the state population, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

But while Obama clearly won counties with large Indian populations, he lost the state to McCain by two percentage points. However, the race was fairly close -- only about 12,000 votes separated the candidates in a state with about 38,000 Native Americans of voting age.

The race wasn't so close in nearby South Dakota, where Obama lost by nine percentage points. Native Americans are 8.3 percent of the state population, according to the Census Bureau.

Again, Obama clearly won counties with large Indian populations but their numbers weren't enough to shift the entire state. Obama lost by over 32,000 votes on Tuesday, a margin that more than likely couldn't have been overcome by the Indian vote.

The results in New Mexico painted a different story. Voters there went Republican in 2004 but this year they turned out for Obama in large numbers.

American Indians and Alaska Natives make up 9.3 percent of the state population, according to the Census Bureau. Their votes in counties with large Indian populations helped move the state to the Democratic side, particularly in the northern and western part of the state, where most tribes are based.

However, one county with a large population from the Navajo Nation remained on McCain's side even though Obama opened an office in Shiprock and organized outreach efforts there. McCain defeated Obama in San Juan County by 19 percentage points.

At the same time, two nearby counties that are part of the Navajo Nation went for Obama by wide margins. And other counties with large Pueblo and Apache populations voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers.

The results from other states with significant Indian populations didn't show marked changes from 2004 to 2008. McCain's homes state of Arizona stayed Republican, as did Oklahoma, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota and Utah.

Safe Democratic states with large Indian populations, like California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, also went with Obama. But voters in Colorado, where Native Americans are 1 percent of the population, made a big switch to Obama after going Republican in 2004.

Alaska, where Natives make up 14.5 percent of the population, remained solidly Republican. But some Native voters were turned off by their Gov. Sarah Palin (R), the Republican vice presidential nominee, and her stances on subsistence rights and sovereignty.

Election Maps:
Washington Post | New York Times

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