In the end, the Native American tribes of North Dakota could not save their preferred candidate, Senator Heidi Heitkamp, from a double-digit loss.
But galvanized by anger over the state’s voter ID law and aided by the intensive efforts of tribal leaders and advocacy groups, they turned out for last week’s election in numbers unprecedented even for a presidential election, much less a midterm.
In Sioux County, where the Standing Rock Indian Reservation is, turnout was up 105 percent from the last midterm elections in 2014 and 17 percent from the 2016 presidential election, according to data from the North Dakota secretary of state’s office. In Rolette County, home to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, it was up 62 percent from 2014 and 33 percent from 2016. In Benson County, home to the Spirit Lake Nation, it was up 52 percent from 2014 and 10 percent from 2016.
One of the most striking results of the night, though, came far from the reservations: in a normally Republican district in the Fargo area, where Ruth Buffalo became the first Native American Democratic woman elected to the North Dakota Legislature. She did it by unseating State Representative Randy Boehning, the primary sponsor of the very voter ID law Native Americans had feared would disenfranchise them.
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