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Was it right for Elizabeth Warren to identify as a minority? Will voters care?

A genealogist is supporting Elizabeth Warren's claim of Cherokee ancestry. But what could linger with voters is whether it's right for someone who is 1/32 native American to claim minority status.

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Democratic candidate for Senate Elizabeth Warren faces reporters during a campaign stop at a diner in Shrewsbury, Mass., Sunday, April 29, as Rep. Jim McGovern (D) of Massachusetts looks on.

Steven Senne/AP

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In the already intense US Senate race in Massachusetts, a new issue has emerged: Did Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren, who claims partial native American ancestry, improperly present herself as a minority to further her academic career?

Ms. Warren's campaign says her Republican rival, incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, is trying to create an issue where none exists.

On Monday, a Massachusetts genealogist entered the fray by citing a century-old document that, if correct, would show Warren to be 1/32 Cherokee in ancestry. That would confirm her statements that, as a youth, she heard relatives discuss ancestral links to Cherokee and Delaware Indians.

It would not necessarily close the matter as an issue in the Senate campaign, however.

Questions would remain, and potentially would resonate with voters, about whether it was appropriate for her to list herself as a minority when her connection to native American identity appears to be so small.

"You don't need to take a DNA test to know that in America, Elizabeth Warren is viewed and treated as a white woman, with all its benefits," commented Jamarhl Crawford, publisher of the Blackstonian, a news organization serving blacks in Boston.

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