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HAVA Task Force Restores Indian Voting Rights to State Plan

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) task force may yet do the right thing for South Dakota's Indian voters. Last week Secretary of State Jason Gant released a draft HAVA state plan that ignored concerns raised about voting access for Indian voters in remote, economically disadvantaged Native communities. At last Wednesday's task force meeting, advocates for Indian voting rights were able to get those concerns back on the table.

O.J. Semans of Indian voting rights advocacy group Four Directions tells me that the task force added "economic disadvantage" to the list of voting access issues the state will try to tackle with HAVA funds. The task force revised the composition of a proposed HAVA Grant Board by replacing one of the proposed two representatives of the disabled community with a representative from the state tribal relations office.

Most importantly, the task force is considering two additions to the HAVA state plan to make funds available for satellite early voting stations. Under one proposal, the HAVA state plan would pre-approve Dewey, Jackson, and Buffalo counties—all with large Indian communities long drives from their county courthouses—to receive HAVA funds to set up satellite stations nearer the Indian centers of population where voters could walk in and cast ballots during the standard 46 days before an election. The alternative proposal would require all counties but Shannon and Todd—counties with large Lakota populations and no courthouse—to apply for HAVA grants. The state would provide HAVA support for satellite early voting centers based on the criteria proposed by Four Directions.

Secretary Gant appears to be clinging to the notion (hope?) that it might not be legal for him to use Help America Vote Act money to help American Indians vote. David Montgomery reports that Gant says we still need a ruling from the hamstrung Election Assistance Commission. Gant warns that if the defunct EAC gets its funct back and rules early voting centers are not a proper use of HAVA funds, counties would have to pay back grants for such activities.

Semans reports that three Democratic legislators—Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell, Rep. Karen Soli, and Rep. Troy Heinert—attended the HAVA task force meeting to show their support for Four Directions. We Democrats don't mind being the only folks fighting for Indian voting rights, but we'd be happier if everyone supported our Lakota neighbors' right to vote.

The HAVA task force meets one last time on February 26, then kicks the plan up the Board of Elections, which, duly upbraided by the killing of its oppressive Senate Bill 33, had better have its head screwed back on straight and vote to fund the satellite early voting stations at its March 17 meeting.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.02.04

    I read through HAVA-EAC rules regarding voting systems and it is not clear whether the state needs pre-approval to purchase and install these systems. They make it pretty clear where and when monies can be spent w/o pre approval. Maybe the standards for travel/voting should be set at the maximum distance Natives in SD have to travelt to cast their votes. Then this distance could become the minimum travel distance for the rest of the citizens to vote. That sounds fair to me.

  2. Anne Beal 2014.02.04

    What's missing here are any statistics on why people don't vote. There are references to people not voting because candidates don't ask for their votes, apathy, refusing to vote as a protest etc. but no whopper stats or even anecdotes about people who wanted to vote but were unable to because of time or distance. Which tells me that group of people doesn't exist, because if they did, the advocates if this plan would have their faces on posters. Surely they have gone looking for these voters. Surely they have counted them all. So how many are there, and could they all fit in one car and be driven to the polls?

  3. interested party 2014.02.04


  4. interested party 2014.02.04

    today's oxymoron: holy spirit.

  5. Deb Geelsdottir/ 2014.02.04

    This is a bit peripheral, but I think 6 weeks of early voting is too much. There is a lot of campaigning yet to come. I think if we cut that in half to 3 weeks, that would still be plenty of time. Yes?

  6. mike from iowa 2014.02.04

    Anne Beal,no offense but what you suggest about one carload sounds like a solution wingnuts would like to explore. If they pay gas for one carload of NA to vote,they might consider that enough of an effort to buy more time to stonewall the real issues involved. Having watched the minimalist efforts rethugs put out to fix large problems all around the Nation,it surely wouldn't surprise me one iota. I hope less people give them silly ideas,they have enough of them in their playbook.

  7. mike from iowa 2014.02.04

    Why not six weeks of early voting? This is America where we are constitutionally bound to facillitate voting for the masses,not alienate or prevent them from voting. Florida shortened their early voting last election because more Democratic leaning voters tend to vote early and give Dems a leg up on wingnuts. I believe the courts made them extend the early voting because so many minorities were being turned away. Also today,rethuglican websites ran ads that encouraged Dems to send money to Dem candidates only the fine print said the money was going to be used to defeat the Dems listed on the sites. Wingnuts got caught commiting crininal acts and so far they only have offered refunds. They should be facing federal election fraud charges.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.05

    Anne, O.J. Semans of Four Directions testified before the Senate Local Government Committee on January 22 that the early voting stations his group supported in Shannon and Todd counties have increased voter turnout 130% over the past decade. He said the early voting station in Buffalo County raised turnout there to give that county the second-highest voter turnout rate in South Dakota in 2012. Whatever reasons folks may have for not voting, the ones Four Directions has identified—distance, poverty, and access to reliable transportation—appear to play a significant role and can be remedied by the satellite voting stations Four Directions supports.

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