Elections 2012: Time’s Running Out to Register, Coal Fights, and Unpopular Cities

Today is the last day to register to vote in 17 states and is on the case. In Arizona, for example, registration forms must be postmarked by midnight tonight. NativeVote.Org has online tools to make the process simple (the idea was that registering to vote should be as easy as signing up for Netflix.) To make it work, fill out the form online and make sure the post office does its part.)

If you are not sure, there is an easy online check called “can I vote?” Fill out your name and other information and it will tell you where you stand, and, if need be, navigate the process to register.

So you register? You get excited. And on election night you’d like to know who wins what. That might be a bit more difficult in 2012.

The Washington Post reported last week that television networks and the Associated Press are canceling exit polls in 19 states. It’s becoming more expensive, partly because more households only use cell phones and partly because of early voting. “The lack of data may hamper election night analyses in some states, and it will almost certainly limit post-election research for years to come,” The Post said.

Speaking of polls, today will be the last day for my informal poll of American Indian and Alaska Natives. Even though the poll is not scientific, there needs to be enough of a response to get a national perspective – and that’s not happening yet. So take a minute. Fill it out online. Again, here is the link. Thank you.

Coal continues to be an election issue – and yet candidates seem to be unaware of the economics.

Montana’s PPL, the company that owns the Corette coal-fired power plant in Billings, announced it would close the plant in two years. Democrat Jon Tester, who supports coal, was fighting off attacks from Republican Dennis Rehburg. Both candidates blame the other for the plant’s closure.

But coal is being hit by market forces, not policy differences. Natural gas continues to gain market share, while coal continues to drop. “The fuel switching we saw last year away from coal toward gas-fired power generation will likely perpetuate over the next few years,” a Houston-based analyst told Bloomberg News. The Department of Energy says natural gas from shale has doubled from 2008 crimping the price of coal.

Remember the Republican Platform and it’s support for tribal rights? An opinion piece in The New York Times suggests that tribes are getting more attention from the GOP than urban issues. “The very word ‘city’ went all but unheard at the Republican convention,” writes Kevin Baker. Held in the rudimentary city of Tampa, Florida, “The party platform ratified there is over 31,000 words long. It includes subsections on myriad pressing topics, like “Restructuring the U.S. Postal Service for the Twenty-First Century” and “American Sovereignty in U.S. Courts,” which features a full-throated denunciation of the “unreasonable extension” of the Lacey Act of 1900 (please don’t ask). There are also passages specifying what our national policy should be all over the world — but not in one American city.”

But Baker writes you could find one passage. Sort of. “Right after ‘Honoring Our Relationship With American Indians’ and shortly before ‘Honoring and Supporting Americans in the Territories,’ the Republican platform addresses another enclave of benighted quasi-citizens: the District of Columbia. Most of what it has to say is about forcing the district to accept school vouchers, lax gun laws and the fact that it will never be a state. It also scolds the district for corruption and “decades of inept one-party rule.” Only a city would get yelled at,” he writes.

“The Republican Party is, more than ever before in its history, an anti-urban party, its support gleaned overwhelmingly from suburban and rural districts,” he says, “especially in presidential elections.”

Perhaps the next president will praise those shining reservations upon a hill.

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. He has been writing about Indian Country for more than three decades. His e-mail is:


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Elections 2012: Time’s Running Out to Register, Coal Fights, and Unpopular Cities