The Oil Vote Wasn’t That Big Of A Factor For Berg


In an attempt to project some sense onto what happened in North Dakota’s Senate race, I spent the morning breaking down vote totals by county and calculating the increases and decreases.

You can see it all in my spreadsheet below. For as fair a comparison as I could make it, I used the 2008 results from the North Dakota House race (there was no Senate race) to compare to the 2012 results from the Senate race.

Overall, voter turnout wasn’t up very much. We saw just over a 1% increase in total ballots cast (turnout was down 3.96%), and a less than 2% increase in ballots cast comparing the 2008 House race to the 2012 Senate race.

Did the oil vote impact the race? Not really. Voting in oil counties was about 48% of the increase in overall voting, but it just wasn’t that big of a total increase. There were just 2884 more votes from oil-producing counties (all of which, with the exception of Mountrail County, skew heavily Republican) in 2012 as compared to 2008, a number offset by the 1,441 vote increase in counties President Obama won in 2008.

My last check of the Secretary of State website this morning shows Heitkamp leading the race by 2,994 votes, all precincts reporting.

If there is blame to be laid for the outcome of the Senate race, it has to be put down at the feet of the Berg campaign. Something about candidate Berg and his campaign caused a significant chunk of voters to turn against him even as they voted other Republicans in to statewide offices by wide margins (the next closest statewide races were the House and PSC, both won by Republicans by a dozen points). I think the Berg campaign – not to mention quite a few observers such as myself – was relying a big influx of Republican voters from the oil patch. Even the media, in the lead-up to election day, were touting the “key bloc” of oil votes, which had the Democrats readying legal options to challenge oil patch votes.

There was an increase, but nowhere near large enough to offset Berg’s problems elsewhere.

Perhaps hanging your hat on a large voter turnout from transient workers new to the state wasn’t such a sound strategy.

ND County-By-County 2012 Election Results

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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