HELENA — Republicans rule the political roost in most of rural Montana, but there’s one part where they don’t: Indian country.
Counties with strong Native American populations — Glacier, Big Horn, Blaine and Roosevelt — invariably vote Democratic, on a par with other Democratic strongholds in Montana like Butte or Anaconda.
In the last four presidential elections, the Democratic candidate won all four of these counties nearly every time. The only exception has been Blaine County, where George W. Bush won a narrow victory over his Democratic rivals in 2000 and 2004.
Barack Obama did particularly well in these counties, winning most of them by at least 20 percentage points in 2008 and 2012, while losing the state overall.
Votes cast in these counties, however, are only about 3.5 percent of votes cast statewide.
American Indian voter turnout also is about 10 percent to 20 percent lower than non-Native American turnout, said Marci McLean, executive director of Western Native Voice, a nonprofit group based in Billings.
Western Native Voice formed in 2012 to build leadership in Native American communities and get people engaged in the political process, she said. It emphasizes voter registration and turnout, among other things.
McLean said the group has 10 organizers across the state, working on voter registration, voter access and other issues.
“We really try and make them believe that their voice does count,” she said.