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Gant: Not My Job to Make Elections Run Smoothly

Here's a howler from Brooks v. Gant.

In their objection and exception to the bill of costs Sara Frankenstein filed on behalf of her defendants and their public insurance alliance, the Lakota plaintiffs make their case that prior to their lawsuit, no state or local officials were lifting a finger to protect their voting rights. That argument is important, because the defendants' ability to make the plaintiffs pay hinges on the defendants' establishing that the defendants prevailed in the case. While the judge dismissed the case, the plaintiffs can argue that they really prevailed, because their lawsuit catalyzed a remedy from the defendants.

The howler comes in Secretary of State Jason Gant's rationalization for his inaction:

Plaintiffs, enrolled members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and registered voters, reside in Shannon County – one of the poorest counties in the entire United States. To alleviate undue hardship for future elections, Plaintiffs requested early voting location in Shannon County during the legally mandated 46-day period. Not one elected leader responded. For example, when Shannon County voters wrote to Secretary of State Gant on three different occasions seeking assistance with a Shannon County location, he did not respond. (Doc. 92, Ex. 17-19.) Indeed, he didn‟t even undertake an investigation to ascertain whether the Plaintiffs‟ claims were viable. (Doc. 92, Ex. 1; Jason Gant Depo. 38:7-11.) Secretary Gant simply contended that it was not his responsibility to ensure elections run smoothly. (Id. at 92:3-5) [emphasis mine; Steven D. Sandven, Plaintiffs' Objections and Exceptions to Defendants' Bill of Costs, Brooks v. Gant, filed 2013.08.29].

Isn't this not-responsible Gant the same dude who was sweathogging extra ballots around Sioux Falls to smooth over a city clerk's poor planning during the April 2012 municipal election? That wasn't even a statewide election, but our director of statewide elections felt a proper moral imperative to make that local election run more smoothly.

Amazing the things some people will say under oath.

Update 11:15 CDT: Let's flesh the above out with text from Jason Gant's deposition in Brooks v. Gant. (Q is attorney Sandven; A is Secretary Gant. We start on page 89.)

7  Q So it's your testimony today that until you received that
8    letter on March 1st, 2012, you did not know -- you didn't
9    know that money was an issue with early voting at Shannon
10   County?
11 A The March 1 letter was when they requested the money.
12   And then I granted them additional money.
13 Q I understand that. When did you first learn that money
14   was the issue, they didn't have the money to go ahead and
15   pay for early voting at a location?
16 A March 1st.
17 Q That's the first time you learned of it?
18 A That they were short on funds? Yes. That was the first
19   time they asked me for money.
20 Q I understand that. But I thought you testified when you
21   were running your statewide race in 2010, that you went
22   ahead and learned that folks at Shannon County weren't
23   getting the same number of days of early voting as
24   someone else. Correct?
25 A I remember reading in the newspaper that they weren't.
[page 90]
1 Q And that funding was the source of that problem?
2 A I would assume that, sure.
3 Q Right. That they were getting private money to go ahead
4 and pay for early voting. You knew that before you
5 became Secretary of State. Correct?
6 A I guess I don't understand.
7 MR. SANDVEN: Can you read the question back.
8 (Last question read back by the reporter.)
9 A I didn't know when they received that money.
10 Q But you knew that money went for early voting, didn't
11 you?
12 A No.
13 Q You didn't know what the private donations were going
14 for?
15 A I remember that they were getting private money. I don't
16 know what they spent the money on.
17 Q Okay. So you -- it's your testimony you didn't know that
18 money was the issue, that folks down in Shannon County
19 weren't getting the same number of days at a physical
20 location in their respective county? You didn't know
21 that money was the issue until you received that
22 March 1st letter?
23 A I knew on March 1st that Shannon County needed additional
24 money.
25 Q Was that the first time that you knew that that county

[page 91 ]

1 needed money to conduct early voting?
2 A That was the first time they asked for money, and I gave
3 it to them just --
4 Q My question is did you -- is that the first time you
5 knew?
6 A I knew there were issues down there, like I said before.
7 Q What issues did you know were going on down there?
8 A From in the newspaper.
9 Q What issues did you know were going on down there?
10 A Their absentee voting days.
11 Q They didn't have the same number of days, correct? You
12 knew that before the March 1st letter?
13 A Yes.
14 Q All right. You knew all these things that are in my
15 letter dated November 11th -- or November 14th, 2011,
16 correct?
17 A I didn't know Shannon County needed money until the
18 March 1 request.
19 Q And when you received this letter dated November 14th,
20 2011, you never called anybody or followed up to say do
21 they need more money down there?
22 A I probably sent it to my attorney.
23 Q But you never followed up with any --
24 A No.
25 Q -- of the officials down there and said do you need more

[page 92]

1 money, can I help out?
2 A It's not my job to run down to any location and say --
3 Q It's not your job to make sure that a county has
4 sufficient funding to conduct an election?
5 A No. It's their job.
6 Q So your chief election officer status, that you talk
7 about true and fair elections in your website, what does
8 that mean to you when you don't help unless you are asked
9 for help?
10 A In this case, with money, yes. I didn't give money until
11 they asked.
12 Q And you agree with Paragraph 8 of Exhibit 93, Page 2, "An
13 early voting location was alternated between Kyle, South
14 Dakota and Pine Ridge, South Dakota for approximately
15 four hours daily to allow for driving time for the
16 contracted auditor and staff to travel to and from Hot
17 Springs, South Dakota"? Do you agree with that?
18 A I don't know if that is true or not.
19 Q You never followed up, did you, to go ahead and find out
20 if the folks down there -- even on the limited number of
21 days, they didn't get the same number of hours as
22 everybody else, did they?
23 A I wasn't secretary in 2010 or whatever year you are
24 referencing here.
25 Q All right. But you never went ahead and investigated

[page 93]

1 this statement or this allegation that the folks down in
2 Shannon County only got four hours of early voting at a
3 location in Shannon County certain days?
4 A No.
5 Q You didn't investigate that?
6 A Correct.
7 Q And you didn't investigate that since you have been
8 Secretary of State?
9 A Correct.
10 Q Why didn't you follow up on this letter, sir, and find
11 out is this really going on down there? They are not
12 getting as many days, and even the days they do get, they
13 are not getting as many hours? Why didn't you follow up
14 on that?
15 A I'm not required to.
16 Q All right. So until a county commissioner brings a
17 problem to you regarding elections, you don't have to do
18 anything about it?
19 A When Shannon County requested the money, I immediately
20 turned around and gave it to them.
21 Q All right. So if there is unequal -- unequal treatment
22 of voters anywhere in the State of South Dakota and that
23 complaint comes to you, you don't do anything with it
24 unless assistance is requested from the commission?
25 A They are in charge of that election, whether it's Shannon

[page 94]

1 County or Pennington County. I am not in charge.
2 Q Even if you know they are doing it wrong, you don't jump
3 in until you are asked?
4 A Correct [Deposition of Jason Gant, Brooks v. Gant, 2012.07.10].

So there you go. The director of South Dakota elections doesn't really direct elections. He doesn't act to solve problems, even if he knows there's a problem, unless some other official tells him there's a problem.

That's not just conservatism; that's adolescent laziness, not cleaning his room unless Mom tells him to.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2013.09.01

    If Mr. Gant is to be supervisor, overseer, or generally in charge of regulating the election process, then it is his responsibility to see that the structure of the system is reputable. He did some work to ensure that the new system of voting in any precinct here in Sioux Falls could work right when the computer tells if you voted in another precinct first. So it is his responsibility to oversee the workings of the system, but he does so when he feels like it. A good voting system is a consistent voting system, not good here and not there.
    So not even investigating a situation where there is historically low voter turnout is irresponsible on his part.
    Also, he is the same person who did not want the feds reviewing our voter lists. He thought this was a state issue. Well we do vote on federal candidates in elections so they had a right and a responsibility to oversee his voter list. But he did not want someone checking on him.
    When there is a lack of ballots in the richest city in the state he moves quickly to get the ballots there. When there is not just a lack of ballots, but no ballots or location to find them in the poorest county in the state, then he simply does not check out the problem. If the Republicans would just remember that their biggest weak spot is that they are the party that is seen as being the party of the rich and affluent, they would not let themselves get caught with their pants down like this.

  2. Porter Lansing 2013.09.01

    Does Gant think no one is watching? It IS his job to ensure elections run smoothly. This "voter suppression" is part of a nat'l GOP agenda and calls for statewide registered voters being sent mail-in ballots since clearly no one in power gives a hoot about Native voting rights.

  3. Wayne Pauli 2013.09.01

    Two things come to my mind, arrogance and the belief that no one else is electable to the position. I am hopeful that The "family" will take care of him during their convention next year. The action they take, or do not take will be a huge "family" barometer.

  4. oldguy 2013.09.01

    I can't believe this guy. I see him around and have to say he is arrogant and condescending as anybody I have ever seen. How this person wins elections amazes me.

  5. John 2013.09.01

    Gant appears as one of the too frequent republican self-licking ice cream cones - whose who think government is bad because they run it so badly.

  6. Jerry 2013.09.01

    Gnat needs to be getting a call from the DOJ to let him know what his damn job is. If only South Dakota had a governor that actually knew what his job really is, that would not be necessary. More proof that the republican party really is clueless on how to govern.

  7. goober 2013.09.01

    Don't worry. He will not be seeking re-election. I don't care if he doesn't know it yet.

  8. Testor15 2013.09.01

    goober really sums it up best why we are in the trouble we are in "I don't care if he doesn't know it yet."

    If South Dakota had ethics laws Gnat, Powers and the whole ALEC group would be part of the Granite City Jaycees.

  9. MC 2013.09.01

    I know you all will dog pile on me but here it goes.

    What business does the Secretary of State has to swoop in on a county and start telling them how to do their job? Elections are strictly a county function. If Shannon County needs help, Shannon County should go to the state and ask for specific help. Not some third party, not individuals, The County.

    The state needs to work with the County to resolve these issues. Not the State coming in and the telling the county how to do their job. If the residents of the county don’t like how the county is being ran, use the ballot box.

  10. Bret Healy 2013.09.01


    The point is that Shannon County voters approached both their county officials and Secretary Gant asking for equal access to the ballot box. Ultimately the State and counties agreed to establish said satellite office to avoid having a federal court order them to do so. Further, the county is a sub-unit of State government, not a sovereign entity unto itself. And lastly, the Secretary of State is repsonsible to provide uniformity of elections in SD.

  11. Jerry 2013.09.01

    Shannon County needs to go where, to ask what? Who would that County be to demand action there MC? Quick answer, there is none and that is why they must go to the whatever this Gnat is. If it is suddenly not his job, then what good is he?

  12. grudznick 2013.09.01

    I don't think Shannon is really an organized county. They should all have to go to Hot Springs to vote.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.01

    Uniformity of elections: good point, Bret! It's just like the state constitutional obligation to provide a universal, free, and fair K-12 education: if a local government is unable or unwilling to protect a basic right of the citizens, the state has an obligation to intervene.

    If I were the state's chief election officer, and I received a complaint from citizens saying they were having trouble voting, I'd investigate right away. If there was substance to the complaints, I'd be on the horn right away to the appropriate local officials first to say, "How can the state help?" and then, if that offer didn't spark action, to say, "We're fixing this problem now, before someone sues you and the state for voting rights violations."

  14. Bret Healy 2013.09.01


    whether you think they should have to drive to Hot Springs is irrelevant. The State and Fall River and Shannon, as a result of the plaintiffs lawsuit, have agreed to establish the satellite office in Pine Ridge. They did this in order to avoid a federal court ordering them to do so.

  15. grudznick 2013.09.01

    What is your political take on this issue, Mr. Healy?

  16. mike 2013.09.01

    If a credible Republican announces against Gant I don't think he will run again but if Gant goes unchallenged at the convention and a credible Democrat runs he will likely lose the seat for Republicans.

    (Maybe the "Draft Heidelberger for SOS" campaign needs to begin?)

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.01

    Don't tempt me, Mike. I would relish an opportunity to say to Gant's face, in front of an audience, everything that I've said about him here on the blog. I'd probably lose the election because I sound so angry... but shouldn't South Dakotans be angry about such constant incompetence, corruption, and violation of the public trust?

  18. Bret Healy 2013.09.01


    I don't have a political take on this issue. South Dakota and Montana (and other states for that matter) should be in compliance with the Voting Rights Act and protected voters (in this case Native Americans) should have equal access to the ballot box period.

  19. Jana 2013.09.01

    Gant is the poster child for everything that is wrong with the Republican party in SD. He is embraced by everyone in the party which is an indictment for every GOP supporter.

    The Dems would be fools to not link Gant and his incompetence and corruption to every candidate the GOP runs. Pointing out how one party rule is dangerous to the good of all South Dakotans and good governance.

  20. Testor15 2013.09.02

    There are already Sioux Falls based ALEC members who have decided to run for SOS in 2014. Somehow we are to think having an ALEC candidate with a different name will make a difference. Gnat will be removed at the GOP convention but who will be ALEC's newest holder of the office?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.02

    Jana, I'm a little puzzled as to why one-party rule hasn't resulted in Gant's removal. Gant's not doing his job. Republicans can see that as clearly as Democrats. Forcing Gant out early would remove a blemish on the party before the election, restore proper state functions, and immediately launch another Republican into the upper ranks. As one party with the freedom to do pretty much whatever it wants, why doesn't the SDGOP excise the Gant tumor right now?

  22. Jana 2013.09.02

    Cory, perhaps it's because he knows where the bodies are buried.

  23. Testor15 2013.09.02

    Cory, by removing Gnat from office before his term is up leaves the GOP open to admitting his stupidity or criminal acts.

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.02

    But doesn't keeping him around leave the GOP open to harboring an incompetent and allowing him to do further damage to the public trust?

  25. Testor15 2013.09.02

    Not at all, if things go bad or keep going bad they can make an example of him in front of the voters and other Willards. It could be an example of the ultimate punishment.

Comments are closed.