2004: The Voter Scorecard in the 2004 U.S. House Special Election

2004: The Voter Scorecard in the 2004 U.S. House Special Election

What issues matter to Native voters?

In 2004, an unexpected and competitive special election for South Dakota’s at-large Congressional seat meant all eyes were on South Dakota again—especially since Native voters had made the difference in the 2002 U.S. Senate race.

Four Directions had to recreate the magic from 2002, but the open seat with its two relatively unknown statewide candidates required special messaging. Before beginning its nonpartisan voter education, Four Directions needed to identify the key issues moving Native voters.

Candidate research

Four Directions scoured the legislative voting records and public statements of both candidates to identify their positions on diverse issues pertaining to Indian Country.

Focus groups

With candidate research in hand, Four Directions conducted focus groups to figure out what issues were critical to Native voters.

Congressional district special election results 2004

The Scorecard

Using the results from the focus groups, Four Directions created a scorecard for organizers to give to every Native voter across the state. The most persuasive messaging turned out to be a simple list of the candidates’ dramatically different legislation, proposals, and policy statements.

The scorecard was explosive. Native radio stations broadcasted it in Lakota and English to educate Native voters about where the candidates stood on key issues. Political reporters across the state highlighted the nonpartisan effort Four Directions had orchestrated.

In the end, the U.S. House special election was decided by only 3,005 votes. With the right research, the right issues, and the right messaging, Four Directions helped deliver 3,374 Native votes and ensured Indian Country’s place in the political landscape.

2004 Special Election Voter Scorecard

June 1 Special Election Information from the Four Directions Committee

Compare the candidates on issues of importance to Native American Voters.

Stephanie Herseth, Democrat

“My basic belief is that Indian Nations are sovereign governments, recognized in the Constitution and in hundreds of treaties with the U.S. executive branch. The federal government should facilitate and complement tribal governments’ efforts to improve the quality of life for Native Americans and encourage economic development in Indian Country.”

supports tribal sovereignty and the rights of Native Americans to be self-governing, to retain their culture and language… (Herseth for Congress flyer/Native Americans)

Economic development:
will work to improve economic conditions by ensuring resources for road construction and improvements, safe water supplies, and encouraging small business development through increased access to small business loans. (www.hersethforcongress.org)

Health care:
has given her word that she will work to make nursing home care available on our Native American reservations. (Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce Dinner 4/30/04)

Opportunities for Native Americans:
is committed to better educational opportunities and economic development for Native Americans. (www.hersethforcongress.org)

Voter Participation:
came to Indian Country following the 2002 election to thank and to honor Native Americans for their support. ( John Steele, Pine Ridge Chamber of Commerce Dinner 4/30/04)

Larry Diedrich, Republican

“It’s time to finally pull ourselves away from really what we’ve done in the past, just giving money out to the reservations, and really move to a situation to where we can use those dollars to really improve their lot, rather than having a hand out, give them a hand up…” (SDPB Debate, 5/5/04) “…we end up throwing millions of millions of dollars to the different reservations.” (KEVN Debate, 5/7/04)

voted against tribal sovereignty when he voted against legislation that would have required the State of South Dakota to recognize tribal Identification cards of valid documentation for drivers licenses. (HB 1288, 2000 SB 204, 2001)

Economic development:
voted against putting signs at South Dakota’s borders and along interstate highways promoting “Great Sioux Nation” for tourism. (SB 203, 2000) Voted against state giving surplus property to tribes for road repair. (HB 1180, 2001)

Health care:
worked with Gov. Bill Janklow to stop the late Senator Dick Hagen’s legislation to build nursing homes on the reservation. (HB 1319, 1998 HB 1087, 2000)

Opportunities for Native Americans:
fought alongside Gov. Bill Janklow to hold down scholarship funding for Tribal Colleges. (HB 1283, 1997)

Voter Participation:
voted to make it harder for Native Americans to vote. Following the 2002 election, Diedrich cosponsored legislation requiring voters to provide photo identification. (HB 1176, 2003)

The Four Directions Committee urges you to vote June 1!
Paid for by the Four Directions Committee, 3213 West Main Street, Box 416, Rapid City, SD 57702, OJ Semans, Statewide Director.

Four Directions, Inc., is a 501(c)4 organization. Contributions to Four Directions, Inc. are not tax-deductible for federal income tax purposes and are not subject to public disclosure. Contributions to the Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT), a federally chartered corporation organized and jointly owned and controlled by member tribes, for Native voting rights work are tax-deductible to the donor as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes and are not subject to public disclosure of any kind.