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.
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.