South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant appears to be working to make his fellow Republicans forget his general incompetence and pick him over potential convention challengers for another term. To burnish his GOP cred, he spent a meeting of the state Board of Elections yesterday hemming, hawing, and letting the phone go dead to stall a proposal to help our Lakota neighbors vote.
Advocacy group Four Directions paid for a satellite voting station in Fort Thompson during the 2012 election. Without that station, Fort Thompson's 1,300 residents would have had to make a 50-mile round trip to vote in Buffalo County seat Gann Valley, population 14. Across the River, Four Directions worked with the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Dewey County officials to establish another satellite voting station at tribal headquarters. For geographically isolated and economically depressed communities, satellite voting stations seem a perfectly sensible and fair way to help our fellow Americans exercise their right to vote.
Ah, but when we're talking mostly Indians who voted in big numbers for Democrat Matt Varilek over Republican Kristi Noem, our Republican Secretary of State has little interest in making voting easier. Four Directions exec O.J. Semans asked the Board of Elections to shake loose $50,000 from the millions in federal Help America Vote Act money that the Secretary of State's office is sitting on to fund three satellite voting stations in 2014. Secretary Gant balked at helping Native America vote:
Gant, however, insisted that before he could authorize HAVA funds for the satellite offices, he wanted approval from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which administers the HAVA process.
...Gant insisted that he didn’t know whether he had the authority to use HAVA funds in the three counties. But [Four Directions spokesman Bret] Healy pointed out that the secretary of state already had authorized the use of HAVA funds for satellite voting offices in Shannon and Todd counties.
But Gant insisted the situation in Shannon and Todd counties is different because those two counties, unlike the three in question, don’t have courthouses [Jonathan Ellis, "Indian Voting Centers Not Approved by State Elections Board," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.07.31].
When Secretary Gant doesn't want to answer a question, he does a good job of not knowing law that a Secretary of State should know. Yesterday Gant used his ignorance to get the Board of Elections to vote down the satellite voting center proposal 4 to 3.
Permit me to once again do Secretary Gant's job for him and see if we can persuade one of those naysayers to reverse their rejection. HAVA says South Dakota can use its funds for many things, including...
Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places, including providing physical access for individuals with disabilities, providing nonvisual access for individuals with visual impairments, and providing assistance to Native Americans, Alaska Native citizens, and to individuals with limited proficiency in the English language [Help America Vote Act, §15301.b.1.G].
Not hard, Jason. You can use HAVA money to improve the quantity of polling places. You can provide assistance to Native Americans. Quit hemming and hawing and do it.