The early voting stations for American Indians in South Dakota aren't running too smoothly. Fall River County auditor Sue Ganje set up the Shannon County station in a five-foot-by-ten-foot entryway, making it hard to process all the Indian voters who were coming to exercise their Constitutional rights. Ganje's response (so I hear from someone who's been on the scene): those Indians need to exercise their Constitutional rights more slowly.
Auditor Ganje has also had the sheriff out to the polling station in Pine Ridge twice. Ganje says she received complaints that Indian voting rights group Four Directions, which has fought for years to establish early voting stations on the reservations, was coercing voters. Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett thus cruised out to see what the fuss was about. He found no fuss, of course, but take a moment to envision a sheriff summoned by a white county auditor to stand at the door of a polling place in front of American Indian voters. What was that you were saying about voter intimidation, Susan?
Enter the unlikely hero, Secretary of State Jason Gant. Our Secretary of State has fought these early voting stations, but yesterday, he evidently came to their assistance:
Four Directions officials were upset that the early polling place in Pine Ridge was set up in a small entryway. After complaints to Secretary of State Jason Gant, a new, larger polling place was found Thursday.
Bret Healy, a spokesman for Four Directions, complimented Gant for personally investigating and finding a new location.
“This was a public official doing the public’s business in a very admirable way,” Healy said [Jonathan Ellis, "Voting Accusations Fly in Reservation Areas," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.24].
I find it hard to put Jason Gant and admirable in the same quote, but there they are. The Secretary can't tell the sheriff to stay the heck out of Pine Ridge, but he appears to be doing his job to make voting run as smoothly as possible for all South Dakotans.
Now if he could just straighten out Buffalo County, which has reneged on its promise to open a satellite voting station:
Commissioners last year said they would establish an early voting center in Fort Thompson if they could do so using Help America Vote Act money. Elaine Wulff, Buffalo County’s auditor, said the county has about $20,000 in HAVA [Help America Vote Act] money.
But Wulff said the commissioners didn’t want to use the county’s HAVA funds, but instead wanted to use state HAVA funds. When the state funds weren’t available, the commission decided not to open an early vote center in Fort Thompson.
“We’re really short of funds, and we could not afford it,” Wulff said, adding that it would cost the county about $200 a day.
But Healy said the county was treating its allotment of HAVA money as if it belonged to the county. He also criticized the commission for “changing the benchmark after the fact,” and he said the commissioners were not the type of people he would trust to buy cattle from [Ellis, 2014.10.24].
Buffalo County has HAVA money in its pocket, but it's refusing to use that money for it's intended purpose. Secretary Gant, maybe you need to swing through Fort Thompson on your way back to Pierre.