The politics of the Washington Redskins name controversy

Native American tribes, including the Blackfeet and the Sioux, make up 6 percent of Montana’s population, according to the U.S. census. And the “other” vote (most of which is Native American in Montana) was 6 percent of the electorate in 2012, going 3-1 for the U.S. Senate incumbent, Democrat Jon Tester. The “other” vote in Montana was 5 percent in 2006, the most recent midterm with a Senate election in the state before 2012.

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So, Democrats have little room for improvement in terms of turnout or vote percentage in Big Sky Country. Even if this year’s Democratic candidate, incumbent John Walsh, doubled Tester’s margin with Native American voters, he’d only have expanded Tester’s overall margin by 3 percentage points. That isn’t nothing, but in recent polls, Walsh is down by more than 15 points to Republican Steve Daines.

Alaska Natives play a bigger role in their state’s elections; they make up about 15 percent of Alaska’s population. Moreover, Alaska’s 2014 Senate race is much more competitive than Montana’s. According to the federal government’s Current Population Survey, the “other” vote (mostly Alaska Native) has made up about 15 percent of eligible voters and 12 percent of actual voters, on average, in the past three midterm elections. So there is slight room for improvement in turnout, but not much.

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