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SB 33: Gant Tries to Block Private Funding of Indian Voting Centers

Just when it looks like Jason Gant might be getting ready for a year of lame-duck decency, the Secretary of State he stinks up the legislative hopper with this side-attack on Indian voting rights.

Bob Mercer notices that Secretary Gant and the Board of Elections have asked for Senate Bill 33:

The state and its political subdivisions may only accept money in support of the administration of an election from another political subdivision, the state, a tribal government located within the State of South Dakota, or the federal government.

This bill would prohibit state and local officials from accepting private money to fund polling places. That may sound reasonable—we don't want big money corrupting the election process—but I haven't heard of instances of wealthy donors seeking to sway elections for the plutocracy by opening more polling places.

The salient example of privately funded voting centers that Senate Bill 33 would prohibit is the financial support voting rights advocacy group Four Directions has provided for satellite voting centers for American Indian voters. Four Directions has been trying to get Secretary Gant to use federal Help America Vote Act funds to fund three such centers to improve Native access to the ballot in South Dakota. After a summer of blockage and baloney, Secretary Gant has been sounding more open to that sensible proposal.

But evidently whenever Gant opens a window, he has to close a door. If Gant o.k.'s the HAVA funding proposal, that federal money would support satellite voting centers at Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte, and Wanblee through 2062. But when that money runs out, or if Secretary Gant or a similarly anti-Indian successor yanks that federal funding, Senate Bill 33 seeks to block viable alternative funding.

South Dakota has no problem accepting private money to fund useful government programs like Mount Rushmore or the Homestake Lab. If Secretary Gant can show that allowing private funding of voting centers somehow corrupts the election process, then Senate Bill 33 is a fine idea. If Secretary Gant can reverse past precedent and demonstrate South Dakota's ironclad financial commitment to supporting voting centers where they are needed, then SB 33 is tolerable.

But Senate Bill 33 looks neither fine nor tolerable. It looks like a political swipe at private organizations trying to bolster the voting rights of thousands of electorally underserved South Dakotans.


  1. Rorschach 2014.01.12

    They had no problem funding the new Governor's mansion with private funds.

    And in 2005, the legislature established the "life protection subfund" to accept private money to fund state government's defense of it unconstitutional abortion laws. SDCL 1-14-3.1 says:

    "The subfund shall be used to cover the litigation costs, including expert witness fees and attorney fees awarded under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 or other applicable statutes, associated with defending South Dakota statutes that regulate or proscribe abortion or contraception. In addition to moneys that the Legislature may appropriate to the subfund, the commissioner of the Bureau of Administration may accept private contributions for the subfund's purposes and deposit those moneys in the subfund."

    They are all for rights ... until someone is born. Maybe they should establish the "voting protection subfund" to accept private money for the purpose of protecting constitutional rights since they already take private money for the purpose of taking away constitutional rights.

  2. Douglas Wiken 2014.01.12

    Another post here indicates Native Americans on their own boards don't even attend regularly to vote. It makes little sense to provide them with more opportunities to fail to vote, but if somebody out of state is willing to piss money away, there is little reason for the state to stand in the way.

  3. mike from iowa 2014.01.12

    Must have been all them off-color furriners that violated the sacred Black Hills and forced poor Mister Lo into miserable conditions on the Rez. Makes no sense that compassionate conservatives would work to maintain the status quo.

  4. MJL 2014.01.12

    So I could give my money to the tribes with an agreement to use the money to fund polling center? Seems more like window dressing.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.12

    R! Excellent examples.

    MJL: yes, that's the workaround, if we have to go there. I'm still looking for the harm scenario: when private groups like Four Directions have given money to support polling places, what bad things have happened?

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.01.12

    If the Secretary of State refuses to do the job he was elected to do, private citizens should have the opportunity to do it.

    Gant has shown his racism on reservation polling places from the outset, South Dakota does need a racist in public office.

    Gant needs to resign, NOW!!

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.01.13

    The record justifies resignation, Roger... but we still need to get on the stick and find a candidate of impeccable integrity who can replace Gant and help all Americans vote, not just the ones popular with his party.

  8. larry kurtz 2014.03.04

    "Where Hughes County voters can cast their ballots on Election Day changes this June. County Commissioners Monday night approved a resolution that replaces the county’s 15 precincts with seven voting centers. Finance Officer Jane Naylor says the change means that those who are registered to vote can vote anywhere in the county, not just at a specific precinct."

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