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Gant Flips Bird to Indian Voters, Resists Satellite Voting Stations

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.


  1. Jerry 2013.08.01

    How the hell does Gnat still have a job in the first place? He should have been impeached some time ago after his last dip in the pool of corruption.

  2. Rick 2013.08.01

    This is where a responsible Attorney General and Governor step in and force Gant to do his job ... or face getting all of their asses kicked very hard in federal court.

  3. mike 2013.08.01

    How credible is the Shantel Krebs rumor? One would think she would blow Gant out because she is competent and will treat people fairly. Since Pat Powers is the one pushing the rumor I'm going to believe there is quite a bit of truth to it (why else would he perpetuate a rumor against his former employer?). That post read like something intended to make her think Gant has a groundswell of support.

    Everyday Gant is in office is another day that the GOP has to defend a guy who isn't qualified for the job. Republicans should clean up their own mess.

  4. mike 2013.08.01

    Gant should do the smart thing and not run again before he gets smeared in the media and abandoned by his own party.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.01

    Mike, the voters of South Dakota can only hope that the rumor is credible and that Republicans recognize that competence is more valuable in a chief election officer than whatever Gant brings to the table.

  6. MC 2013.08.01

    When I first read this, I thought you were talking about Secretary Gant actively denying access to polling places by Native Americans on election day.

    I see this is about setting up voting centers for early voting targeted at Native Americans. They are not being denied the right to vote, or the opportunity to vote early. If they want to vote early, they can, by going to their courthouse or by mail.

    The group Four Directions set up voting centers with their own money for early voting, now they are asking for help to pick up the tab to do it again.

    Am I right so far?

    Why not just vote on election day, at your normal polling place?

  7. Bill Dithmer 2013.08.01

    MC you are absolutely right.

    If we change, "try to enhance," the voting environment for one set of voters where would it end? We live ten miles from a poling place and it is on the reservation, Long Valley School. You can vote in Wangle, both in Jackson County.

    I could see a problem if someone was being denied the right to vote but that isn't the case. Voting is a right, but if you choose not to vote because it's just to hard with the options people have today it is your problem not the states.

    While I don't like Gant any more then others here this should never have been brought up for discussion.

    The Blindman

  8. South DaCola 2013.08.01

    Because that is what HAVA money is for, easier access to the polls. There is $9 million sitting in an account just getting moldy, might as well spend it. We all know what it is about, Native Americans usually vote Democrat and Gant is a Republican.

  9. MC 2013.08.01

    Scott, If this was about wheelchair ramps at polling places on election day, or not being able to read the ballot, or skinheads (my apologies to those who are bald) or the New Black Panther Party providing 'security' or anything else about being able to vote on election day at the designated polling place, yes! spend the money, ask for more. Make it as easy as possible to vote at the proper polling place on election day. This day belongs to us, the people. This day our voices, all of our voices, are to be heard.

    This is about voting absentee in person at the courthouse or satellite voting center. Yes it is difficult. It was designed to allow you cast your ballot if you know you are going to be unable to get to your normal polling place on election day. Not But on election day they bring the polling place to their district, normally within a few miles.

    If this is politically motivated, because of Gant's party. I, MC, a republican, will ask for him to step down as Secretary of State.

  10. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.01

    Sad with the thousands of unemployed on the reservations that not one public-spirited volunteer can be found to help voters with access. Next they will be asking for vouchers for gasoline to vote as they now do with healthcare.

  11. Rick 2013.08.01

    Scott is correct about the intended use of HAVA funds. There is an easily proved case to be made that ballot access for Natives on reservations is far more difficult than elsewhere. Yet Gant's office, and Chris Nelson's office before him, hords money needed to provide a reasonable access for people in these isolated, economically backward areas where people don't have the kind of access to transportation that others in our state have. But you good ol' boys keep convincing yourselves to the contrary. You're wrong and there is a body of law that requires this money to be used appropriately. Again, Gant, the Attorney General and the Governor can choose to get spanked and humiliated in federal court, or they can do their jobs and uphold this most fundamental right of all Americans to vote.

  12. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.08.01

    Voting ought to be as easy as possible. There is no virtue in making it more difficult for people to vote. This most critical of democratic rights is not reserved only for those who can scrounge up transportation, get time off from work, or any other issue.

    We're talking about voting here! This is it, the true bedrock of this nation! We should be doing everything possible so that voter turnout is huge.

    I think we ought to go much farther than that. Electronic poll books that include a photo of the voter. (No hoops to jump through, and no fraudulent voting.) An election should last a week, and each citizen must be guaranteed a day off, paid, in that week to vote. (Yes, an entire day. Paid through an equivalent tax reduction.) There needs to be some sort of transportation program too.

    There is plenty more, like felons voting rights restored the moment they step out of prison, etc. But the point is ------- get the people whom this nation was created for and by, to the polls by any means necessary!

  13. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.08.01

    Oh, and pay the poll workers, including several hours of training before the election begins.

    Absentee voting for any reason beginning 2-3 weeks prior to the election.

    What else should the USA be doing to make this democracy more democratic?

  14. Monty 2013.08.01

    South Dakota has a history of suppressing Native American voters. 17 lawsuits have been filed on behalf of Native Voters since 1966, which is why some SD jurisdictions fell under the Pre-Clearance Section of the Voting Rights Act. In 1977, then Attorney General Bill Janklow famously directed the Secretary of State to ignore federal pre-clearance requirements - which South Dakota continued to do for the following 2 decades. AG Jackley joined South Dakota in support of the mostly Southern states in the recent Voting Rights Act challenge recently before the Supreme Court. There is a Section 2 lawsuit hearing tomorrow in Federal Court in Rapid City regarding early voting opportunities for Shannon County voters. South Dakota election officials said it was reasonable for Shannon County voters to drive 140 miles round trip to early vote, while promoting voting centers in Sioux Falls so voters would not have to go to their home precinct on election day, but could vote wherever was most convenient for them. Providing all voters equal opportunities to early vote and vote on Election Day seems like an obvious goal, but instead South Dakota election officials fight to keep old barriers to voting in place in rural areas and indian country. While sitting on $9 million dollars of federal Help America Vote Act money.

  15. MC 2013.08.01

    Rick, Deb I am with you on this, Come election day, make casting a ballot as easy and safe as possible. Do what ever it takes to make sure everyone who wants to vote, has that opportunity. That could mean loading up a train to be a voting center and moving them into areas or 53' expand-o-vans be pull into an area and set up as fully functioning polling center. If we can do capitol for a day in these areas, we can set up a polling center.

    Absentee ballots can be cast by mail or in person at the courthouse. 46 days prior to election day

  16. Rick 2013.08.01

    The $9 million Gant has squirreled away, that Scott mentioned, is given to the state to do its job of enhancing access to the polls for the people who actually need the enhancement. This is not money from the state's taxpayers. And compliance to enhance the process for Native voters on these isolated, starkly poor reservations won't break anybody's piggy bank.

    This is all about being pigheaded and mean to a race of people. It's about being anti-American against the First Americans, a people who don't have the financial resources to fight the power clic in Pierre. The actions from Pierre are intended to gag a sector of our state from their most fundamental constitutional right. Because the Native vote is overwhelmingly Democrat, these bigots think they can find solace from their fellow Republicans.

    State and local governments spend a lot of money setting up polling places, printing ballots, paying officials and government workers to hold elections in every jurisdiction of our state. We who are not Indian can choose to vote pretty much any time we want. We live in houses and apartments and the vast majority of us can get time off to get into our car and drive 10 minutes to vote or cast an absentee ballot. It's convenient for us.

    Life on South Dakota reservations which are the home of America's poorest counties is 180 degrees different. The HAVA funding isn't meant to equalize anything. It just gives people in economically repressed and isolated regions a fairer chance to vote. How in hell is that asking too much?

  17. Jana 2013.08.01

    MC, how far do you have to travel to vote? How far away is your county seat? Do you own a car? Maybe your experience is the same as those in tell us.

    Voting day should be a national holiday and expanded to as many citizens as possible. The opportunity to vote should be something we celebrate and work to make sure is as convenient and sacred no matter where you are.

    What's the cost? It would be good to put context to this discussion. Are we talking millions as in crop insurance premiums? Or are we talking thousands?

    One would think that in a rural state like SD that we would be willing to not make location a barrier to voting.

  18. Jana 2013.08.01

    Sorry...I forgot that the GOP is really super serious about making sure that everyone can vote....except people like us...

  19. MC 2013.08.01

    Election day a national holiday? Sounds like a great idea. Save for the fact I work most holidays :( However if you were not able to watch the elections results come in live, you would be calling me to fix it.

    How far do I have to drive to vote some elections about nine miles some I have get to work, then back to vote, then back to work, and maybe back home. about 120 miles

  20. Jana 2013.08.01

    Wait...isn't Jason one of the leaders of the national fraternity of Secs of State?

    How sad is it that he isn't an expert on this exact subject...seriously Jason? It's only your job. You know the one that your friends paid for to get and that the taxpayers pay for their mistake.

    Jason Gant...overseer of all election laws is stumped by something a "French" teacher could find with a simple google search.

    One just wonders how he explains this ignorance of the laws he is supposed to know as a basic function of his job!

    Sadder yet is that all the lawyers that make up the election board weren't curious enough to even smart enough to outwit the witless...sorry that wasn't fair. But how on God's green earth could so many people sworn to uphold the laws of the land be so lazy as to not see what a French teacher pointed out so succinctly.

    It would be nice to know who the 4 votes to alienate the Native American vote were. Argus? RCJ? KELO? Cap Journal?

    Or how about you Jason the to share who voted which way and why?

    Election board you feel any civic responsibility to come into the sunshine and speak to your vote?

    Didn't think so.

  21. Jana 2013.08.01

    To get a taste of the joke that our SoS "South Dakota Election Board"

    OK...maybe Google is having a bad let's go to Jason's site. Go ahead and search who is on his site as to who is on the board.

    Hell...if you are a taxpayer and want to see the annual report you have to get a keycode password to get past the gatekeeper keeping taxpaying citizens out.

    He's quick to twitter...except on the things he wants us to know.

    Maybe Stan can help us get some transparency out of this office. Go ahead Stan. Search the SoS site for the Board of Elections and tell us what you find...or how you found it.

    Stan this matters...will you help?

    And yet Jason is the Grand Pubah of SoS's?

  22. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.01

    How do these terribly isolated non-voters get food?

    Perhaps if they can figure that out, they can figure out how to vote.

  23. Monty 2013.08.01

    Food sales are not restricted to county seats. In-person early voting is restricted to county seats, with limited exceptions like Pennington County, which operates a satellite voting center in Wall so Wall area voters do not have to drive to Rapid City to vote.

  24. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.08.01

    Doug, I'm curious about what kind of requirements you have in mind for voting:

    Access to transportation?
    Enough income to afford to vote?
    Ability to take time of work to vote, even at the risk of one's employment?
    Demonstrated willingness to overcome any hardships to vote?

    I'm not being a smart ass. From what I'm reading in your comments, these are legitimate requirements in your mind. So, how do your voter eligibility requirements stack up to my thoughts?

  25. mike 2013.08.02

    I should hope the Tea Party that advocates for principles and acting on convictions acts on getting rid of Jason Gant and the violations he has made towards the sacred right to free and fair elections. Anyone who supports Gant because he's their friend or colleague loses credibility.

    Those who preach principles should act on this one.

  26. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.02

    Hey, how do Wall residents qualify for special treatment?

  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.02

    Now calculate MC's voting time-mileage-cost as a percentage of his personal GDP.

  28. Rick 2013.08.02

    The only calculation in the minds of the Pierre power clic is how 524 votes made all the difference in 2002.

    The Wall example clearly demonstrates that if a community voting bloc is predominantly white and Republican, they're willing to spend money on a satellite voting center so that those white Republican voters don't have to drive 45 minutes to visit the courthouse in Rapid City. Not only is this a violation of HAVA, it's a clear violation of equal protection on American citizens' most fundamental and most empowering right.

    How badly does Marty Jackley want his ass kicked in federal court? He will suffer a national embarrassment sticking up for vindictive rednecks.

  29. Monty 2013.08.02

    If I remember correctly, HAVA money for a Wall office was not an issue. The Pennington County Commission approved a limited hours office as a convenience to taxpayers in that part of the county. It did set a precedent for operating satellite offices for elections in South Dakota, although counties in Indian Country have largely funded those offices through donations from Four Directions Voting Rights, and the number of days the offices operated depended on the amount of money Four Directions could pull together - some years it only a couple of days. One current issue in Federal Court is whether counties have a responsibility to fund satellite voting offices, rather than rely on donations which may or may not be available. And, since SD has 9 million in non obligated HAVA money, should that money be used to fund satellite voting offices rather that relying on donations for providing an essential service of government.

    If anyone is interested, search under Four Direction Voting Rights for news and link to court briefs.

  30. MC 2013.08.02

    Who is picking up the tab for the satellite early voting center in Wall? Is the post office broken? Any reason why they can't mail their absentee ballot to Rapid City?

    The voting center Idea that was tested in Sioux Falls seemed to work well and should be expanded statewide for election day.

  31. Douglas Wiken 2013.08.02

    As for voting requirements. Sign and date your name if voting in person. Give election officials a $50 digital camera and take photos of voters. The ID requirements should be dumped. They are discriminatory and a needless pain in the rear. Absentee voting is really easy already. Anybody who actually wants to vote can vote if they don't prefer whining about the hardship. Voters aren't the source of election fraud, corrupt and discriminatory officials can be. If Native Americans want influence, they should figure out ways to get it by themselves. They holler independent sovereign nations when it suits them and whine like spoiled demanding, dependent children when that fits their schemes. It is a self-destructive combination that is not working.

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