Last updated on 2015.10.02
Mr. Powers doesn't mind highlighting the PR incompetence of politicos who post their missives at the end of the weekly news cycle. But when Secretary of State Jason Gant posts his spin on his Help America Vote Act-Indian voting center controversy at 5:08 p.m. on Friday, Powers nods and smiles at what he wants us to take as his former (?) boss's wisdom.
For his part, Secretary Gant makes clear that Indian voters can go sit on a tack. He perpetuates the dodge he used Wednesday to get the state Board of Elections to narrowly reject a proposal to fund voting centers in three reservation communities far from county courthouses, saying that he has to get an advisory opinion from the federal Election Assistance Commission to authorize using HAVA funds for this purpose. He completely ignores the revelation from the press Friday that the EAC has no commissioners to issue an advisory opinion and would have to clear a several-year backlog of requests before it did.
Gant also deceives the public by exploding the satellite voting center request into something it is not:
If HAVA funds were to be used in all 66 counties for implementing an additional in-person absentee voting location, based off Four Directions estimates, that would cost an estimated $1,000,000 each election year. Consideration must be made on the future funding of the program. Eventually, the money will run out and we will have an ongoing election expense utilizing one-time funds. This process will leave the South Dakota Legislature and possibly County Auditors with the problem of funding this election program on an ongoing basis [Secretary of State Jason Gant, statement on HAVA funding, posted to Facebook, 2013.08.02].
What? One million dollars? 66 voting locations? Who's asking for that? Our friends at Four Directions have asked the Secretary of State to use $50,000 out of the millions in federal HAVA funds on which Secretary Gant sits to fund three in-person absentee voting stations, in the reservation towns of Wanblee, Eagle Butte, and Fort Thompson. Four Directions has not asked the Legislature to establish ongoing state funding for such a program (not that there'd be anything wrong with giving our Lakota neighbors ongoing access to more convenient voting). There is nothing in this request or HAVA or state law or anything else (except maybe courtesy and a commitment to democracy) that would stop a future Secretary of State from saying a century or two from now when the Four Directions request would deplete our HAVA cash, "Sorry, we're out of money. You'll have to find another funding source for those satellite voting centers."
Secretary Gant humble-mumbles about how he doesn't have the authority to spend HAVA money, but my noble commenters and the courts say he's wrong. Gant has been trying to weasel out of a voting rights lawsuit by Oglala Sioux Tribe members by saying it's the counties, not he, that run elections. The court threw that argument out Thursday. Mr. Larson points out further that the court has held that "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."
Don't let Secretary Gant fool you: he has the money, the authority, and the legal and moral duty to help our American Indian population gain better access to the ballot box.
And we have a responsibility to find a candidate (Democrat, Republican, whatever) who will oust Gant from the office he is abusing and do the job of Secretary right for all South Dakotans.