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Gant Cites Defunct Election Commission in Indian Voting Center Dodge

Secretary of State Jason Gant further proves he's either incompetent or malicious in the misexecution of his official duties. Wednesday, he ran interference for his Red-fearing Republican Party by resisting a call to fund more voting centers for South Dakota's American Indian citizens. He said he needed the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to tell him whether he could spend Help America Vote Act allows him to spend money on satellite voting centers.

Jonathan Ellis follows up and finds the Election Assistance Commission may take a long time to get back to Secretary Gant. The commission has been out of commission for years:

...the commission currently cannot issue advisory opinions and hasn’t had that ability for years. That’s because the four commission seats are vacant.

... the National Association of Secretaries of State repeatedly has called for the elimination of the EAC. Gant is treasurer of that association, and he serves on a committee called the Task Force on the Disposition of EAC Duties.

Gant did not return a message left at his office Thursday. The EAC’s website shows there are more than a dozen pending requests for advisory opinions that, in some cases, are several years old [Jonathan Ellis, "Secretary of State Defers to Empty Election Panel on Indian Satellite Voting Centers," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.08.02].

As David Montgomery alludes, Secretary Gant was either ignorant or sneaky in using an appeal to the EAC as an excuse to urge the South Dakota Board of Elections not to approve satellite voting centers for three underserved American Indian communities. Democrats, I know we have a lot of ballot slots to fill in 2014, but let's move Secretary of State to the front burner, so we can lay out for the voters Secretary Gant's disservice and replace him with a fair, honest, and knowledgeable Secretary of State.


  1. MC 2013.08.02

    to be clear. We are not talking about polling places on election day; We are talking about satellite voting centers to allow people to cast their absentee ballot in person, is this correct?

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.02

    Yes, the Four Directions proposal is to use HAVA funds to provide the same voting services in Wanblee, Eagle Butte, and Fort Thompson that are provided at their respective courthouses, including in-person absentee voting.

  3. rollin potter 2013.08.02

    mr. montgomery, you may be right! instead of either ignorant or sneaky, drop the either!! He is nothing more than a political parasite in pierre!!!

  4. MC 2013.08.02

    An interesting development.

    There is nothing on the HAVA website that indicates they are to help with early absentee voting. There is also nothing to indicate they shouldn't help with early voting as well. It is not like anyone is being denied the opportunity to vote or there is a lack of polling places on election day. Seeing how these are Federal funds, I can understand deferring to the Election Assistance Commission for guidance.

    Because the commission is currently vacant, and it members are appointed by the President of the United States, then confirmed by the Senate; it kind of puts this issue in their lap. However, in place of a functioning Federal government our State government should be able to pick up the slack. It might be time for our Governor or the attorney general to step up.

    If a newly appointed Election Assistance Commission says 'no', then who is liable for the $50,000.00? I don't blame Mr. Gant. He is playing it safe, as well he should.

  5. Owen Reitzel 2013.08.02

    where is the main-stream media on this? To me this is a big story and Gant should be held accountable.

  6. mike 2013.08.02

    Gant is a joke. He should take a stand and have an opinion. Isn't that why he is elected?

  7. MC 2013.08.02

    No Mike, as Secretary of State, he does not get to make decisions, or really form an (official) opinion. Basiclly his job is to make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed.

    To be fair it is a bit more than that. But basiclly a records keeper

  8. Jerry 2013.08.02

    Don't be so hard on Gnat and his ways. What he really meant to say was that until ACORN can set up an office here, his hands are tied. He is merely doing what his puppet masters are telling him to do.

  9. MJL 2013.08.02

    I vote Gant as being racist.

    Gant's duty as Secretary of State is a two-fold duty when it comes to politics. The first is to ensure fair elections and unbiased elections and to encourage voter participation. Gant seems to fail on all of those levels.

  10. Chris 2013.08.02

    One thing is for certain with Gant, he sure does nail dotting the 'i' and crossing the 't' of gross incompetence.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.02

    Owen, in the mainstream media's defense, I'm getting my info on this story from Jonathan Ellis, Kevin Woster, and Tasi Livermont, all mainstream reporters.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.08.02

    MC, go back to the section I quoted from HAVA yesterday. It speaks of "Improving the accessibility and quantity of polling places" and "providing assistance to Native Americans...." If I were Secretary of State, I would have no problem interpreting that clear statute to say that I could spend $50K of the $9M in HAVA money I'm sitting to create three new polling places to help my Indian constituents vote. I would most certainly conduct the charade of deferring to a decision from a board I know darn well is in no position to respond.

  13. mike 2013.08.02

    I'm pretty sure Gant can have an opinion on this issue instead of sending it to a board that doesn't exist.

  14. MC 2013.08.02

    Cory, if this was about normal polling places on election day spend the money, all it. Create 20 even 50 new polling places if that is what is needed. have the ballot written in Lakota.

    But we are not talking about election day polling places, we are talking about satellite voting centers, so people can vote absentee in person. Why can't they wait until election day and go to their normal polling place, in person.
    if they must vote absentee, why not by mail? did the post office break? Why satellite voting centers, when the only other people that had them was Wall? (I'm still want know who is funding it)

  15. mike 2013.08.02

    All I want to know is why did Gant try to pass this off to a committee that doesn't exist anymore? Shouldn't he at least know what is going on in his office?

  16. MJL 2013.08.02

    I find it interesting that he had to first claim red-tape even though it has been used in other states (Arizona for one) to help establish early voting centers. He is also claiming that once again, he really has no idea what the law allows and needs to pass on the decision. But the thing that bothers me the most is that first he claims red-tape (a questionable claim), then he talks about the cost of doing this in 66 counties? 66 counties? I was confused, isn't this just a few counties?

  17. Chris S. 2013.08.03

    "Why can't they wait until election day and go to their normal polling place, in person."

    Yes, why can't people in areas with notoriously bad access to transportation simply wait until election day and journey to their far-flung polling place? I'm sure they'll have no trouble taking a half day (or more) off work, and finding someone to drive them 50+ miles round trip.

    That attitude, and Gant's actions, show that this is really about a certain group making sure that only the "right" people get to vote.

    Jim Crow: It's not just for the south anymore. But do we have a different name for it up here? Jim Crow Creek?

  18. Dave 2013.08.03

    MC, I can walk only two blocks from my house to visit my county's courthouse. But I've lived in West River South Dakota, where the nearest "neighboring" community was at least 50 miles from the town I lived in. The county seat was at least an hour's drive when the weather was good. Throw in what could typically be the climate of early November in South Dakota -- ice, wind, severe cold -- and a long trip in very isolated country becomes foolhardy and dangerous. Now add the economic and social situations found in our Indian reservations -- poverty, lack of transportation, lack of infrastructure, etc. And you have to constantly ask, "Why can't they wait until election day?" If people living there wanted to vote early via absentee, I suppose they could. If they owned a computer. And they had access to the internet. Just how accessible are internet services in on the rez? Bet it could be sketchy. Of course, they'd have to own a printer, too, so they could download and print South Dakota's Application for Absentee Ballot. South Dakota has ID requirements for absentee voters, which means they'll either need to include a photocopy of their IDs with their applications or need to have the application notarized or witnessed by an official who can administer an oath. How many photocopy machines are available? How far away is the nearest official who can witness and notarize? Then they can mail or hand-deliver their completed application to the appropriate election officials. On the reservation, that's easy, right? Doesn't every reservation resident have the mail delivered (and taken) directly to each home? They don't. Just getting or sending something by mail is a difficult process in West River and on the rez. And, it's only becoming more difficult, as Kristi and John are battling to keep rural post offices open in their home state.
    The process outlined above is to just apply for an absentee ballot. Once the application is received, it is sent by mail (again, a challenging process), and once you fill out your absentee ballot, you must again mail it to your county auditor.
    Today, I live in one of the smallest-in-area counties in East River South Dakota. Besides being able to vote early at the courthouse or at the regular polling place on election day in the community I now call home, there are, if memory serves, at least three satellite polling places located hither and yon within the county to make voting for rural residents that much easier. And by easier, I mean turning a 20 mile drive into about a 5 or 10 mile drive for most rural voters.
    What we all need to be asking ourselves is why Gant hasn't taken the lead on this issue in the first place. Why does Four Directions need to be the advocate for improving poll access in West River and in Indian Country? And ... why did Gant finally choose to "respond" with a rambling statement filled with excuses that he issued a few minutes after 5 p.m. Friday? Via Twitter??

  19. Monty 2013.08.03

    Yesterday afternoon, a hearing on Brooks v Gant was held in Federal Court in Rapid City. Brooks v Gant is a lawsuit brought by 25 Ogallas under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to establish a permanent satellite voting location in Shannon County. Gant had previously asked the Court to remove him from the suit, arguing counties are primarily responsible for elections even though Gant had described himself as the chief election official in South Dakota and is the Chairman of the Board of Elextions. The Court denied his request.

  20. MJL 2013.08.03

    The courts are clear that Gant can choose how it wishes to implement the HAVA funds:

    Moreover, Gant is the officer in charge of disseminating Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) funds in South Dakota, and he has authority to implement South Dakota’s plan to improve the administration of federal elections under HAVA. See Help America Vote Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-252, 42 U.S.C. § 15301 et seq. The Election Assistance Commission distributes HAVA funds to the states, but there is no federal mandate as to how the local units of government, like counties, actually have to receive the funds from the state. Docket 47 at 11. At the time this lawsuit was brought it was the practice and preference4 of the state of South Dakota to have counties pay election costs up front and then submit the costs to the state as a reimbursement request.5 When additional HAVA funds are made available to the state, the Secretary of State has discretion to determine how the funds are distributed to counties.6 This discretion on how to provide federal funds to counties like Shannon County and Gant’s power to implement the state’s HAVA plan is sufficient to show an additional avenue through which plaintiffs’ injury in fact is traceable to Gant’s conduct.

    Part of Brooks v. Gant

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