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HAVA Task Force Hears Affordable Satellite Voting Center Proposal

Four Directions continues to fight for American Indian voting rights in South Dakota. And yesterday, at a task force meeting in Pierre, instead of the obstruction and obfuscation dished out by Secretary of State Jason Gant last summer, Four Directions got what sounded like a fair hearing and a positive response to a plan to create satellite early-voting stations for three reservation communities.

I spoke with Bret Healy, who represented Indian interests at yesterday's meeting and presented Four Directions' plan. Four Directions wants Secretary Gant to spend some of South Dakota's stockpile of eight million dollars of federal Help America Vote Act money to run satellite early-voting stations in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte, and Wanblee. These three reservation towns are Indian population hubs that are relatively removed from their county seats.

Four Directions yesterday proposed the following three criteria for establishing satellite voting centers in counties that already offer voting at their courthouses:

We propose that if for all three factors if American Indians living on Reservations are 50% less likely to have a motor vehicle than Anglos, have 50% more individuals below the poverty line than Anglos, and live, on average, 50% farther than Anglos from the existing county seat, then HAVA funds should be made available to fund a satellite office for the full election period and be open for the same hours and dates as the county courthouse in that county [Bret Healy, Four Directions memo to Secretary of State Jason Gant and 2014 HAVA Task Force, 2013.12.17].

Vehicle access, poverty, and distance—these criteria mirror those suggested by Wyoming geographer Gerald R. Webster, who studied similar voter isolation problems in Montana. These criteria easily apply to Indian voters in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte, and Wanblee.

So how much would it cost to give folks in these three towns access to early voting comparable to what folks closer to the county seat get? If we wanted to open weekday voting stations in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte, and Wanblee for both the primary and the general election for the full 46 days during which South Dakota allows early voting, Four Directions says the cost would be about $46,500. However, practicing the "art of the possible," Healy says Four Directions would be satisfied with early voting satellite stations just during the general election. That cuts the election-year cost in half. With local cooperation and local hires (easily doable, says Healy), we can reduce mileage and commuting pay. Essentially, opening all three voting stations would take less than $20,000 per election.

Put it this way: invest just half a million HAVA dollars in these voting stations, and those three towns get easier voting access through 2062. Plus, the state would still have millions of dollars left to spend on elevators for Granny and other voting access projects.

Keep in mind that these voting stations aren't just for Indians. They're open to any registered voter. Consider the situation in Buffalo County. There's more reason for any resident, white or Indian, to be driving through Fort Thompson than through Gann Valley, the county seat. Travelers on Highway 45 can't even get gas in Gann Valley. A voting station in Fort Thompson makes voting easier for almost everyone in Buffalo County.

Healy says the Four Directions proposal got a favorable reception yesterday. The task force will conduct some informal discussions by wire before its next face-to-face meeting on January 27. Secretary Gant laid out a timeline yesterday of bringing a proposal to the state Board of Elections in February so that any final decision can be placed in the Federal Register by March 1. The state must forward any decision to the federal Election Assistance Commission, the quorumless body to which Secretary Gant deferred back in August in what smelled very much like an effort to permanently postpone a decision. But Healy says the task force received assurance yesterday that the EAC can act on any request from South Dakota, even without official EAC commissioners in place.


  1. Jerry 2013.12.19

    Blindman will have a close local for his "X" on the ballot.

  2. Ken Santema 2013.12.19

    Do the reservations have an equivalent position of a county auditor to ensure elections go smoothly on reservation lands? Or do they depend upon the County Auditor? I'm guessing they don't have a position like that. I would think it makes sense to have a tribal position that deals directly with SOS on these issues.

  3. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.19

    Jerry I vote at the Long Valley school. That would be six miles from my house and twelve miles from Wanblee.

    The Blindman

  4. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.19

    Ken that would depend on whether the county is organized or unorganized. Wanblee is a part of organized Jackson County. It would be the same as every other person that lives in Jackson County as far a voting is concerned.

    The Blindman

  5. Jerry 2013.12.19

    I must have been thinking of a triangulation thing, but did I get the "X" correct?

  6. Bill Dithmer 2013.12.19

    Last time it was an X. who knows what it will be this time. You never know how they will want the ballot folded either. We dont have no fancy voting booth with a machine either. Just pick out a piece of bleacher, set down, and make your mark. Then you walk back to the people in charge and "stuff your ballot in the box. I've stuffed a lot of ballot boxes in my life.

    I'm telling ya it's getting harder and harder for The Blindman to vote every time. I just might try one of those mail in thingys next time. I've only missed one election in my life so I kind a dont want to break the string.

    The Blindman

  7. Porter Lansing 2013.12.19

    Mail in ballots for all registered voters is a system that eliminates most of the "voter suppression" rampant in the GOP nationwide.

  8. Ken Santema 2013.12.19

    Thanks for the answer Bill! I started reading how elections are supposed to work in SD. See some definite areas for improvement.

  9. Les 2013.12.19

    Hey Porter, how much will it cost me to buy the Rez ballots from Mobridge to Thunderhawk? Do I need a thumb print on each or do we just trust? Voter suppression or voter fraud, kind of like spittin in one hand and wishin in the other.

  10. Ken Santema 2013.12.19

    Porter, I wouldn't say it is just a GOP issue. I've lived in Red and Blue states. The same tricks are tried by the two sides for both voter fraud and voter suppression (the party in charge of a state dictates which tactic is used by both parties). Personally I think nation-wide there is a much bigger problem with voter fraud than suppression, but both are issues that need to be addressed. Sadly neither will be fixed unless the problem as a whole is looked at.

  11. interested party 2013.12.19

    Why tribal nations want to vote for a governor, auditor, attorney general or for any state politico is a mystery.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.19

    You are correct, not just in your comment, but in the fact that many Indians don't vote in state elections. For many they see no benefit in it, but most of the time they are not asked for their support by candidates.

    I might point out that a segment of the population on reservations don't vote in tribal elections, either. This is in the form of a protest of the IRA government established by Congress. Many call them "treaty Indians" because of their lack of acknowledgement of a tribal government.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.19

    Back up, fellas. How many fraudulent votes have been cast? How many elections have been thrown by fraudulent votes? Empirical examples, please.

  14. Les 2013.12.19

    Is $5000 for a community vote fraud Cory? Or is it just fraudulent if you shift the paper work? Is that why you helped unelect Steph?
    Empirical examples of voter suppression?

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.12.19

    I'm gonna need specifics, Les. The voter fraud I think we're talking about is...

    (1) Ole Olson comes to the polls, claims to be Lars Larson, and votes; or,
    (2) Ole Olson votes, comes back an hour later, and votes again; or,
    (3) Ole Olson steps off the boat from Norway and votes.

    My list is exemplary, not exhaustive. Specifics, Les?

  16. Mark 2013.12.20

    Preventing voter fraud is commendable and what we all want. Doing it fairly and squarely is important, too. Some of the fraud prevention measures are clearly motivated by something other than detecting fraud.

    Data? Check this out:

  17. Les 2013.12.20

    Must be true, Mark has link. Empirical? Specific? I've had it written several times but do not feel like dealing with the noise your choir sings. I will just say, areas of poverty can more often than not be taken by a small value if not just food, cell phones etc as areas of affluence are taken with the no bid contracts etc.
    We need ID to live but not to vote? Your goal here is voter education. Would you deny our system educated voters by reducing the value of a vote? I will readily work for voter access to the polls. With the millions/billions spent, the cheaters are up front and on stage and the whole election is fraudulent to the degree most don't have a clue who they're voting for.
    It's politics and we've been taught its all fair unless unless it's them doing it to us.

  18. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.20

    Proponents of controlling "voter fraud" in some states estimated tens of thousands of fraudulent votes. Court cases, etc showed at best a handful.

    Election fraud by officials is likely more of a problem than any "voter fraud" anyplace.

    If Native Americans think not voting is an effective protest of anything, they are cutting their own throats.

    If there is "fraud", it is in gerrymandering districts.

  19. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.20


    You missed.

    Not all Native Americans protest by not voting, but some do.

    Not voting is often an expression of apathy for the whole political process and whether you like it or not, it is a statement.

  20. Douglas Wiken 2013.12.20

    Apathy is another word for lazy.

    " but in the fact that many Indians don't vote in state elections. For many they see no benefit in it, but most of the time they are not asked for their support by candidates."

    If they protest by not voting, why do they want extra polling places? Does that make not voting at all those added polling places and times make the protest more visible? Something like those who signed demands for more polling places and then failed to vote when they got them. Hard for candidates to decide to waste time on voters who choose not to vote when given extra opportunity.

    Organize a 90 percent turnout and politicians will take notice.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.20

    "Lazy" is not a synonym for voter apathy!

  22. Les 2013.12.20

    Not voting is indeed a statement Roger, actually it is hundreds if not possibly thousands of statements. Most of those statements are not a good reason to make it easier to vote and there are a lot more non Indian non voters than Indian making those statements. I am all for helping anyone become involved, educated and able. Actually, lazy and apathy are related words, Roger.

  23. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.20

    Lazy and apathy are indeed related, I don't think lazy and voter apathy are related however.

    It is also the responsibility of candidates to educate and inform voters, successful political candidates know this and are willing to go into untested waters.

    President Obama's campaigns were all about voter registration, education and getting the vote out and follow up.

  24. Jerry 2013.12.20

    I for one, welcome the fact that access can be made easier for voters. I think that the state of South Dakota should be commended for doing just that on the reservations. As you note CAH, this is not just for the Indians, it is for all the residents that live in that voting area. As a nation, we should demand that voting be make easier and more accessible than it presently is for the good of all. We Americans are quick to condemn other countries for the way the do their voting while turning a blind eye to our own short comings. Purging voters is not very democratic and making voting more difficult is not either. Good work on all parties involved with this.

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