Kavanaugh vote, voter suppression leads to flipped North Dakota Senate seat

    It doesn’t seem as if the blue wave will be reaching North Dakota this year.

    Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, the first woman in the state to be elected to the U.S. Senate, lost her seat to Republican Representative Kevin Cramer Tuesday night. The vote was decisive, with Cramer gaining 56.7 percent of votes to Heitkamp’s 43.3 percent (as of 9:57 p.m. CST with 79 percent of the votes in).

    The loss comes in the wake of Heitkamp’s vocal opposition to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. North Dakota votes overwhelmingly red and, in 2016, voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Her decision to vote no garnered her national support–she raised $12.5 million dollars in a little over two weeks afterwards–but was not as popular in her home state.

    Her campaign has also faced criticism because of an advertisement concerning sexual assault, where the names of women who had either not agreed to have their names used or were never assaulted were included.

    There is another factor at play beyond Heitkamp herself. North Dakota passed a law in October requiring IDs used at the polls to list a residential street address. This disproportionately affects the Native American population in the state, as those who live on or near reservations do not usually use a street address. A local tribe challenged the law but it was rejected due to the closeness of the election. Heitkamp’s close win in 2012, by a margin of about 3,000 votes, is often attributed to Native American support.

    “I think that is the most horrendous and most targeted move made by a Republican non-incumbent in a Senate race,” said Weinberg freshman Jacob Denenberg. “It’s just one other way that we’re [Americans] pushing [Native Americans] out of their own lives and their own cultures and their own areas. And Heitkamp not being able to receive the votes of the people whom she represents is the reason why her campaign was sunk.”

    The law also comes in the middle of a bigger discussion about voter suppression nationwide.

    “I think that we’ve seen an escalation in attempts to use election law to advance partisan advantage,” said Professor Michael Kang, an expert in election law from Pritzker Law School. “Increasingly, the view is it’s part of what you need to do, [especially] as elections become more competitive and the parties are fighting for control of the Senate and the House and state legislatures. Both sides are using election law as one of the tools that they have at their disposal to try to gain some sort of advantage over the other side.”

    The Republicans ended up maintaining their majority in the Senate at the end of election night, flipping Senate seats in North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana.


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