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SDPAA Uses Taxpayer Money to Intimidate Indian Voters

During my tenure on the Lake Herman Sanitary District board, our single biggest budget item was our insurance policy through the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, a policy that, to my knowledge, the district has never used.

What does Lake Herman get for its money? Harassment of Indian voters. The SDPAA is using Lake Herman taxes and public funds from local governments around the state to punish Indians for fighting for their right to vote. The SDPAA, under the direction of recent Madisonite Judy Payne, is driving the punitive request to make the Indian plaintiffs in the Brooks v. Gant voting rights lawsuit pay $6,328.54 in costs incurred by the defendants.

The SDPAA covered the defendants' costs, including depositions, photocopies, postage, and mileage. According to the bill of costs submitted by defendants' lawyer Sara Frankenstein, photocopying costs include 50 cents for two sheets run on May 3, 2012, and 25 cents for one sheet run on November 14, 2012. (If you're looking for a bargain, Shepherd Reporting in Utica only charges 20 cents per copy.)

According to the plaintiffs' objection and exception filed by attorney Steven Sandven, the SDPAA is much better able to absorb those court costs than the plaintiffs SDPAA wants to punish:

Plaintiff Clarice Mesteth is a single mother who has legal custody of seven children. (Doc. 121, Ex. 3). She is the sole provider for at least five of those children. Id. Plaintiff Edmond Mesteth works part-time for the Oglala Sioux Tribe in its Childcare Program. (Doc. 121, Ex. 4) He shares custody of his fourteen year old daughter. Id. Plaintiff Monette Two Eagle is a single parent with three children and a grandmother under her care. (Doc. 121, Ex. 5) Plaintiff Stacy Two Lance has an eleven year old daughter with special needs. (Doc. 121, Ex. 6) Plaintiff Dawn Black Bull has legal and physical custody of her five children. (Doc, 121, Ex. 7). Coupled with the impoverished state of Shannon County with the individual circumstances of the Plaintiffs, it is clear that imposition of Defendants' legal costs would cause a devastating undue hardship [Steven D. Sandven, Plaintiffs' Objections and Exceptions to Defendants' Bill of Costs, Brooks v. Gant, filed 2013.08.29].

Even split 25 ways, $6,328.54 is a big penalty for these folks. $6,328.54 is peanuts to the SDPAA, which holds assets worth $28.6 million. Covering the legal costs incurred when their members make mistakes is what those millions are there for.

But remember, we're not just talking pocketbook punishment; we're talking civil rights, which the SDPAA's governmental members have a duty to uphold and which SDPAA is trying to quash:

Additionally, an award of costs in this case would not only undermine congressional policy in encouraging this enforcement action but would also have a deterrent effect of future voting-rights litigation. This, as Congress has recognized, would be bad for society at large. The Court should therefore consider the chilling effect of future voting rights litigation when determining whether to impose such costs [Plaintiffs' Objection..., 2013.08.29].

The SDPAA is actively intimidating Indian voters and anyone else who would fight for civil rights in South Dakota. Four Directions, the group fighting for the plaintiffs, is trying to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the SDPAA this long weekend. If I were still on the Lake Herman Sanitary District board, I'd be calling Judy Payne and the SDPAA directors and telling them to stop using our money for voter intimidation.


  1. Porter Lansing 2013.09.01

    Outrageous, appalling and fraudulent attempt at voter suppression. This GOP agenda must be quashed and Native voting rights brought to the light until the roaches have been revealed statewide.

  2. Wayne Pauli 2013.09.01

    So, like Florida but attacking the South Dakota minority population. How do these things happen and how can people think it is the right way to treat residents of our State? If I asked my Republicans friends, they will just deny that there is any fire behind this smoke.

  3. Jerry 2013.09.01

    The DOJ needs to be alerted to this scam. The Federal Government is the only one who can protect us from the crooks and liars of the republican state government.

  4. Chris Francis 2013.09.01

    Really South Dakota? Just pathetic.

  5. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.02

    How do you get past the idea that the suit was frivolous because of the 25 Native Americans bringing suit, zero of them voted in the primary during the extended absentee voting period and only 3 of them voted in the general election in a regular voting place?

  6. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.02

    Who has the power to designate voting places? I may be searching with the wrong terms, but have found noting about that.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.09.02

    I get past that concern by accepting that rights are rights, whether we use them or not, and the state has an obligation to protect those rights.

  8. Bret Healy 2013.09.02

    If this suit was frivolous, why do you suppose that Shannon, Fall River and South Dakota agreed to provide the satellite. Further, 325 Shannon County voters utilized the satellite office in Pine Ridge during the 2012 general election, so a bit hard to suggest that the issue is frivolous. At the end of the day, the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act require equal opportunity for minority voters to cast a ballot. A quick thought experiment: If Shannon County voters were provided 6 hours of open polling places and anglo voters everywhere else were provided the 12 hours that is called for under current SD law would you consider that to be equal. For that is exactly the logic in suggesting that Indians on the Pine Ridge have election day to vote so why do they need a satellite office for the other 45 days that anglo voters have to cast an in person absentee ballot. Please let me know whether a 6 hour election day for Indians and 12 hours for anglos would be ok Doug. Thank you for your response in advance.

  9. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.02

    OK Cory, thanks for finding that. I assumed county commissioners were responsible. So, why does the Secretary of State become involved? If there is a problem with precinct definitions, boundaries, and designated polling places, should not a suit against county commissioners be first step? Or, are county commissioners immune from suit? In "counties" without commissioners, who is responsible for designating poll locations?

    I am not opposed to raising hell with Gant on these issues, but perhaps some of the other factors may be more significant and others may have more responsibility.

    The tribes on the alcohol issue limited the number of designated voting places. Is there any oversight of that process short of a federal suit?

    If there is ambiguity in these issues, perhaps the problems should be solved by the legislature.

  10. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.03

    Anybody can vote by mail just by contacting a county auditor and providing ID verification. These suits look more like employment contracts for tribal favorites.
    If there is a problem, it is the requirements for IDs when it is nearly impossible to get people out to vote as it is.

  11. Jerry 2013.09.03

    This cause me pause Mr. Wiken "If there is ambiguity in these issues, perhaps the problems should be solved by the legislature." How can you argue that the legislature may need to solve this when it is Gnat's job to do exactly that?

  12. Douglas Wiken 2013.09.03

    Jerry, where is it shown that this is the task of the Secretary of the State? I see on the SOS site that he is chief elections officer. Is designating voting places his job or the job of county officieals?

  13. Bret Healy 2013.09.04

    Doug - you need to have a better understanding of the 15th amendment and of the Voting Rights Act - equal is equal - not through the mail for Indians and convenient in person voter registration and absentee voting for anglos - that is the core of this matter

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