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Latest results: Arizona Diné go for Biden by 82%

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Following the publication of last week’s paper, in which we reported Arizona’s Navajos helped to flip the state blue by voting 97% for Democrat Joe Biden, we were flooded with two kinds of email.

chart

Image of chart showing Biden vs. Trump election results across the Navajo Nation. For an accessible version of the chart, download a PDF of it via this link.

The first type — which came in from all over the country and even a few foreign countries — fell into some version of “Thank you, Navajos, for saving our democracy!”

The second category, not nearly as numerous, was from the number nerds, who, believe us, can smell bad data from miles away.

Many people were skeptical that such a large and diverse tribe could be that unified, and when they crunched the numbers themselves, based on the three Arizona counties that overlap the Nation (as we did), they came up with different results than we reported.

Mellor Willie of the Washington, D.C., public affairs firm Chee Consulting LLC was the first to question the numbers.

“I was concerned about those initials numbers that misrepresented Navajo’s vote,” Willie wrote in an email. “Don’t get me wrong, the turnout was good – any seasoned political consultant will tell you that shooting for 5 to 6 percent increase in voter turnout is an aggressive goal – and across Navajo there was 6 to 8 percent increase.

“But when you see voter turnout reported at 97 percent for one ticket that raises immediate red flags,” he said. “When we only have a few hours and days to address any conditional ballots, it does not help our situation to have overblown numbers giving the public a false sense of security.”

Willie and nine other people who emailed with similar concerns were right.

A combination of reporting before many mail-in and early ballots were counted, and tired human error when it came to data entry, skewed the figure considerably … but after painstakingly isolating the precincts that are entirely or partly on Navajo, we can confidently report that, if you’re a Biden fan, you do indeed have Diné voters to thank.

It’s just that the figure is closer to 82% than 97%.

A full accounting is provided in the accompanying table so you can check my math. These results are still unofficial, but this is as accurate as we can get at the moment, and should be really close to the end result.

This is the first time we have pulled the data at this level, and it wasn’t easy.

The fact that the Nation went for Joe big-time is not particularly surprising; it has long been a Democratic stronghold, and, other than a few ardent supporters, many Native Americans find President Donald Trump’s policies and remarks offensive.

One surprising thing about the data is the number of Arizona Navajos who voted for Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen: 1.6%, slightly higher than Arizonans as a whole and half a percentage point higher than Americans as a whole.

I didn’t meet any Navajo Libertarians during my informal exit polls in the Dzil Yizhiin chapters, so it’s hard to say if they’re true believers in drastically reduced government or a vote for Jorgensen was just a way of saying “none of the above.”

It’s easy to conceive that less federal interference might appeal to a Native tribe guarding its sovereignty, less easy to imagine the huge chunk of the tribe’s budget that comes from the feds going away, which would almost certainly happen under a Libertarian administration.

It’s a trend that bears watching.

And speaking of watching, you can bet the incoming Biden administration, and other Democratic leaders, will be held to account by Native Americans now that they know their power as a voting bloc. In a state race where Biden led by only 12,813 votes Wednesday morning, no one can say the Navajo Nation’s 52,307 votes for the former vice president didn’t tip the scales.

It’s also guaranteed the number crunchers have their calculators out right now and are checking my math. To which I say, bring it on.


About The Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at cyurth@navajotimes.com.

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