PINE RIDGE, SD -
In most elections, South Dakota is a reliably red-Republican state. But Shannon County, which is located entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is one of the strongest Democratic voting counties in the entire country.
Although that probably won't have a strong impact on Tuesday's presidential race, it's a different story when it comes to state elections.
"It's been the Democratic Party that's always seemed to be the ones that include Indians in with the rest of the population of the United States," voter Joseph RedCloud said.
In fact, Shannon County holds the distinction of having the highest percentage of votes cast for Democratic presidential candidates not once, but twice; nearly 85 percent for John Kerry in 2004 and 88 percent for Barack Obama in 2008.
Shannon County's strong Democratic turnout probably won't have that much of an impact on the presidential race. But in the race for the state's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, it could be another story.
The county's votes helped Sen. Tim Johnson narrowly defeat John Thune in 2002 and may play a key role in the race between Representative Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger Matt Varilek.
"I don't agree with everything he says or does, but I tend to believe that he might be better for the people out here on this reservation than Kristi Noem has been," RedCloud said.
But RedCloud's opinion isn't shared by everyone on the reservation.
"I voted for her. Even though she's a Republican I think that she has a lot of good values towards Natives," voter Tim White Face said.
Regardless of their differences, both men agree that casting a ballot is important and are encouraging others to do the same.
"Maybe it's not going anywhere, but the bottom line is that one vote counts," White Face said.
"Well, what's one vote going to matter against all the other people in the country? One vote does matter," RedCloud said.
Shannon County residents will have nine different polling places across the reservation and one in Hot Springs.
The county has close to 8,700 registered voters. 6,500 are registered as Democrats, 1,300 Independents, and fewer than 700 registered as Republicans.
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