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Gant Revises HAVA Plan to Approve Early-Voting Stations for Indians

We're down, we're up, we're down... and we're up!

Secretary of State Jason Gant appears to be getting the message that discrimination isn't cool. After the rejection of his Indian voter-suppression bill in committee last month and blowback from an initial Help America Vote Act state plan draft that blatantly ignored calls for improved American Indian access to early voting, Secretary Gant is circulating a new HAVA draft plan that includes provisions to support Indian voters.

The big addition is in Section 12, which originally stopped with the line, "The State anticipates no major changes to its implementation of HAVA." The new February draft adds, "...except that Title II Section 251 funds may now be used for additional in-person satellite absentee voting locations provided they meet the criteria set out in this plan."

The criteria for satellite early-voting stations are those proposed by Indian advocacy group Four Directions in December. If voters in a precinct, township, or other jurisdiction are 50% less likely to have cars, 50% more likely to live in poverty, and 50% farther from the county seat than the rest of their county residents, their county commission may use HAVA funds to set up a satellite early-voting station in their jurisdiction. The draft pre-approves Buffalo, Dewey, and Jackson counties for this HAVA spending.

To approve HAVA funds for voter-access projects, the original draft created a HAVA Grant Board that had no members of tribal communities. The revised draft replaces one of two representatives of disabled voters with a representative from the Department of Tribal Relations. Keep an asterisk by this proposal: that's still a flunky of the Governor and not necessarily someone straight from the tribes. But as gravy, the new draft specifies that the HAVA Grant Board will be subject to open meetings laws.

Bret Healy of Four Directions says he's headed into the HAVA task force's February 26 meeting with renewed cautious optimism. Four Directions has had to fight far harder than it should have to get the Secretary of State to use Help America Vote funds to help American Indians vote, but South Dakota now seems poised to do the right thing and give our Native neighbors the same easy access to early voting that the rest of us enjoy.


  1. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.20

    Even after being defeated in the legislature, why is it necessary for Gant to drag his feet on this issue.

    The HAVA Grant Board needs to have representatives from these isolated counties that know the demographics and not people that have never to been to these areas

    It is just one more dig at Native American voters by Gant.

  2. Andrew Pietrus 2014.02.21

    I'm on the HAVA Plan Taskforce. It has been understood from the first time we met that money ( or at least the availability of it) for satellite absentee locations on the reservations would be included. Anyone who says otherwise is a misinformed or lying.

    Another repeated error (at best, lie at worse), the bill you refer to that was defeated was NOT as Secretary of State bill it was a Board of Elections bill.

    And Mr. H we do not have early voting in South Dakota. Early voting is when you vote early and your ballot goes straight into the ballot box, we have no excuse absentee voting, our ballots still go into an envelope first. The difference that this creates is that the ballot can still be taken back out if the voter dies, commits a felony or is found to have voted twice by showing up again on election day.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.02.21

    Andrew, Sec. Gant was the lead proponent of the bill. He's on the record for it. That's not misinformation.

    "understood"? Really? Show me the paper, not some imaginary unexpressed understanding. This benevolent intent certainly has not been made easily understood to any objective outsider looking at the record. If it was the understanding from the beginning, why was it so conspicuously absent from the first draft?

    Whether we call it early voting or absentee voting, the main issue here is Indian voting, and Sec. Gant's actions (and the Board of Elections actions, for that matter) have made clear that Indians have to fight for the rights that us white folks get pretty easily.

  4. Andrew Pietrus 2014.02.21

    As an election junky I just have to put the record straight on early voting. However, I understand that most folks don't care about the difference and I understand the intent to increase access on the reservation.

    The SOS is always the lead proponent on a Board of Elections bill, its his role.

    When the subject of satellite absentee locations came up at the first meeting and there was some questions about whether it was permissible under state law SOS Gant interjected and it went something like this: "Let's operate under the assumption that we will include this language in some form or another." I took that at face value, I also took it at face value when we were told the first draft was a very rough draft. When we showed up at the last meeting there were several addendums to the rough draft, one of them being the satellite language. Again I took it at face value that the language would be in there so I didn't take the addendum as a change of heart, the language was there like they said it would be.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.21


    Why would anybody in this state, knowing Gant's behavior and attempts to suppress Native American votes, take anything Gant says "at face value"?

    As a South Dakota resident and voter I expect more from public servants and those that serve on boards and committees.

    If Gant was early proponent of satellite voting areas in depressed parts of our state, why was it necessary to have thing controversy in the first place?

  6. Andrew Pietrus 2014.02.21


    I guess I just don't care to go there.. Not the conversation I'm trying to have. In the HAVA Taskforce there were familiar and unfamiliar faces, I gave them all the benefit of the doubt from the beginning of the first meeting. This is the attitude I try to take with my daily life, it is extremely helpful to me in getting things done and just being happy.

    Before Gant interjected, the discussion was about whether to include the language and whether satellite locations were legal. After he interjected we have only focused on how to include the language, NOT if we should.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.02.21


    It is usually good to take people at face value, I know I do until they prove otherwise.

    Gant made a very public stand against Indian voting centers, that alone should change on he should be perceived.

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