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ACLU Conducts Voter Education and Registration Drive September 24-27

Since Secretary of State Jason Gant can't do his job right, the American Civil Liberties Union and League of Women Voters are working to fill his gaps. After advocating a new law this year to disenfranchise convicted felons who get probation instead of jail time, he failed to update the official state webpage on this topic until September 6, two months after the law took effect. He still hasn't updated the official voter registration form to reflect the new restriction.

The South Dakota ACLU is thus touring the state to get out the word. As part of the national "Let Me Vote" campaign, the ACLU-SD will hold voter registration events in Rapid City, Pine Ridge, Eagle Butte, and Fort Thompson. They are focusing on Indian country because, frankly, South Dakota's efforts to discriminate against voters have focused on Indian country.

Here's the ACLU's clear explanation of the new rules for voting rights for folks who've crossed the law:

If you were convicted of a felony, there are new rules for voting.

  • You CAN vote if you have finished your sentence.
  • You CAN vote if you were sentenced to probation before July 1, 2012.
  • You CANNOT vote if you were sentenced to probation on or after July 1, 2012. (This is a new rule.)
  • You CANNOT vote if you are on parole.
  • You CANNOT vote if you are in prison.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor or you are awaiting trial, you CAN vote. If you are in jail, you have to vote by absentee ballot.

[American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, voting rights information card, September 2012]

The ACLU-SD will hand out and explain these materials on voting rights and registration in South Dakota. They'll also give free dinner! The League of Women Voters will handle registering any interested voters. Here's when and where:

  • Rapid City: September 24, 6:00pm
    Mother Butler Center
    220 Wright Street
  • Pine Ridge: September 25, 6:00pm
    Prairie Winds Casino
    Hwy 18
  • Eagle Butte: September 26, 6:00pm
    Community Landmark Hall
    Main Street
  • Fort Thompson: September 27, 6:00pm
    Lode Star Casino
    1003 SD Highway 47


  1. Anne C Thompson 2012.09.22

    I disagree with your comment that these groups are working to "fill his gaps", referring to Secretary Jason Gant. Secretary Gant and his staff have been most cooperative and supportive of the efforts of the League of Women Voters of Sioux Falls by providing expert advice and counsel on a number of issues. Legal language is often difficult to understand, and the effort to clarify the written language of laws is not an easy task. Those of us in the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan group of volunteers, believe that it is the responsibility of all citizens to participate in government. If, by registering voters and educating voters, we can assist Secretary Gant in the execution of his job, we are pleased to do so. Ultimately, the most important issue here is to empower all eligible citizens to have their voices heard by voting.

  2. Jana 2012.09.22

    Anne, loved your last sentence "Ultimately, the most important issue here is to empower all eligible citizens to have their voices heard by voting."

    Now juxtapose that with what Bill Janklow circa 1977. Janklow expressed hope that Congress would soon repeal “the Voting Rights Act currently plaguing South Dakota.”

    Our current AG, Marty Jackley has filed an amicus brief to do just that.

    Here's more on the challenges imposed by the state to voting rights of our Native American citizens.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.09.22

    I agree that all citizens have responsibilities here. The League of Women Voters plays a vital role in helping citizens understand the complicated laws that come from Pierre. I be no means wish to suggest that the non-partisan LWV shares my very partisan distaste for Secretary Gant. He's the election boss; he's the guy LWV and other orgs have to work with.

    However, that does not change the fact that Sec. Gant isn't doing his job very well, leaving the LWV, ACLU, and me with a lot more to explain to voters.

  4. Justin 2012.09.23

    But election fraud is far too common, usually in the petition process. We can see from where the ALEC dollars in SD go that they are big supporters of petition fraud.

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