Press "Enter" to skip to content

Oglala Sioux Voters Sue Jackson County for Early-Voting Satellite Station

Last month I reported that Jackson County was refusing to set up an early-voting satellite station in Wanblee to allow locals to enjoy the same access to early voting as all other South Dakotans without having to make the long drive to Kadoka and back. The voting station wouldn't cost Jackson County a cent, as federal Help America Vote Act money is available to cover the bill. But Jackson County finds that plan too confusing.

The folks who run Jackson County are white. Kadoka is a mostly white community. Wanblee is a mostly Indian community. Get the picture?

Jackson County asked for it; now they've got it. Four Oglala Sioux voters from the Pine Ridge reservation have filed suit in federal court against Jackson County for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Jackson County is probably toast. Other counties have established early-voting satellite stations to help South Dakota Indian communities overcome distance and poverty to access the same early-voting rights that the majority population freely exercises. Jackson County is standing in the way of free and equal exercise of basic voting rights. Perhaps they will have the good sense to avoid further trouble and surrender to equality and democracy before a federal judge orders them to.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.09.18

    Bet Whitey never saw this coming.

  2. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.18

    Tomorrow we start early voting in South Dakota, the timing of this lawsuit is perfect.

    Citizen's of this newly formed Northern Mississippi need to recognize the racism that SoS Jason Gant is promoting.

    Republicans greatest fear in this election cycle is that Democrats will vote.

  3. jerry 2014.09.18

    Jackson County is broke or so they say. From what I have heard with the "opt out" back door approach and the rest of the interesting procedures taking place there, this is just one more brick in the wall. When you are too stubborn or too dumb to see the big picture is why we have federal laws. Without them, folks like the ones that run Jackson County would continue to deprive citizens of their rights. When the plaintiffs win this case, in replacement of the monetary win, they should demand the return and control of the county lands south of the White River. That would be the icing on the cake along with the early vote station.

  4. bearcreekbat 2014.09.18

    The question seems to be do we believe in democracy or do we fear it?

  5. jerry 2014.09.18

    According to our ruling class, we believe in democracy for others so we can get access to their mineral rights. We believe in democracy only when it serves our needs and we fear it when it does not.

  6. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.18

    Shame on you, Jackson County. Hang your head.

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.18

    Hi Deb,

    It's not just Jackson County, it SoS Jason Gant as well

  8. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.18

    Agreed Roger. The people in SD constitutional offices are the poster children for corrupt, inept government. Maybe they'll act like Scotland and declare their independence. Then they can move to the Antarctic. It's warming up, you know.

  9. mike from iowa 2014.09.19

    Scotland said no,Deb.

  10. El Rayo X 2014.09.19

    So will this federal lawsuit be settled in time for anyone in Wanblee to vote in the 2014 election? Plan B should be daily caravans to the court house to vote absentee. Put 50 to 100 Lakota in a courthouse on a daily basis and that will get a satellite voting center faster than any court.

  11. Craig 2014.09.19

    I will never understand the premise that justice is served by making it MORE difficult for people to vote. Never.

  12. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.19

    To paraphrase what Bill Clinton said at the 2102 Democratic National Convention, 'there is something wrong with a country that makes it easier to buy a gun, then it does to allow them to vote'.

  13. Douglas Wiken 2014.09.19

    Are there gun dealers in Wanblee? Nobody is being prevented from voting. Get a mail-in ballot.

    The real threat to voting rights are the ridiculous SD ID laws.

    How far is it from Wanblee to White Clay, Nb? If they can't drive to vote, I don't imagine they can drive to drink.

  14. Craig 2014.09.19

    Doug: "Nobody is being prevented from voting."

    You're right of course. They are however making it far more difficult to vote, and they have no legitimate reason to do so.

    "If they can't drive to vote, I don't imagine they can drive to drink."

    I don't wish to assume intent of your words so am hoping you can clarify. Are you suggesting that everyone who wishes to vote in Jackson County yet lacks the resources to get to and from Kadoka to do so is somehow able to make it to White Clay? That doesn't compute - and frankly any discussion of alcohol or alcoholism has no place here as this is about voting... not drinking.

    The simple truth is, many people in Jackson County are poor. Very poor. In fact Jackson County is one of the poorest counties in the entire nation and the average per capita income is sub-$10,000 a year. Many don't have vehicles. Those who do may have difficulty affording the fuel for the 60 mile round trip. Some are disabled. Some are elderly. There is no mass transit available. Many voters have difficulty even registering to vote and may not know where to begin to request a mail-in ballot.

    We can make excuses all day long for why they "shouldn't" need a voting center, but at the end of the day excuses aren't justification. We know a problem exists so why ignore it?

  15. jerry 2014.09.19

    Mr. Wiken, I wrote this and it does not only apply to republicans it applies to folks like yourself from whatever party you register as.

    "According to our ruling class, we believe in democracy for others so we can get access to their mineral rights. We believe in democracy only when it serves our needs and we fear it when it does not."

    The idea of a democracy was just seen yesterday in Scotland. There, many thousand people who had never registered to vote, did so because of this referendum and democracy took a bold step forward. No matter how that election or for that matter, this one turns out, the fact that there are more people involved in the democratic system says much about societies as a whole and the idea that their vote counts.

  16. grudznick 2014.09.19

    Mr. Wiken, as somebody who knows how to haul beer in a car back in my day of driving, I would say 1 car can haul a lot of beer from White Clay in a single run but you can only haul a handful of voters. We don't deliver beer by the busload so we should either busload the voters to Kadoka or set up a place for voters to vote where there are lots of voters. One car can probably haul the voting machine and a couple of staff from Kadoka to Wanblee or He Dog easier than hauling He Dog to Kadoka.

  17. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.19

    Of course you're right grudz, you make a good point.

    But, you know how dumb us are Indians are, especially those living in Jackson County. They would opt to drive or hire a ride to make a 180 mile round trip to White Clay than make the 50 mile trip to Kadoka to buy beer.

  18. Wiken: How far from Wanblee to Nebraska??


    Google it.

    Pine Ridge is in Shannon County. Wanblee is in Jackson.

  19. JeniW 2014.09.19

    To vote absentee, aka "voting by mail," a letter has to be submitted to the County Auditor requesting that an absentee ballot be sent, plus a copy of a driver's license or approved photo ID.

    There has to be a letter (with a copy of the photo ID,) sent to the Auditor every year.

    I know this because with the difficulty that I have with mobility and the unpredictable winter weather, I did not want to miss out on being able to vote at the November election soI sent a letter to the Minnehaha County a Auditor including a copy of my driver's license a few months ago.

    That request is only good for elections held in 2014. Come 2015, if I want to vote via absentee (via mail,) for any elections during 2015 I have to submit another request with a copy of my photo ID.

    Fortunately, I have a machine that I can make copies from.

    Writing a letter of request is not an impossible task, but I do not know how many people living on the reservations have access to a copying machine (either their own personal machine, or have access to a copier at a store or wherever.)

    Mr. Wilken, would you give us some insight as to how many copying machines are available in Jackson County, and where they are located?

  20. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.09.19

    Mike, you made me laugh!

    Excellent points made here. The number one priority of any democracy must be enabling voters to vote!

    Did you know Scotland allowed 16 and 17 year olds to vote yesterday? The US ought to do the same. What government does makes an enormous difference to people that age.

  21. mike from iowa 2014.09.19

    Deb,the US makes an enormous difference(or differentiation) for 16 and 17 year olds. On the one hand at those ages you can't vote,can't legally drink,can barely get a drivers license and if you are white and ornery you are considered a child. If you are Black or Hispanic and are ornery you are likely to get life in prison or worse.

  22. jerry 2014.09.19

    Mr. Wiken, do you think that there may be some other Natives that might also live outside of the limits of Wanblee that would also use this polling place?

  23. jerry 2014.09.19

    According to the report, there are also about 3% who are non native that live in that 2.2 square mile section. I am going to go out on a limb and say that when there is a voting booth there, you will see others use that voting booth that live in Jackson County but outside the limits indicated.

  24. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.19

    Surely there is racial connotation behind the link Wiken provided!

  25. jerry 2014.09.19

    I guess you can read what you want to read into it, but it looks like the numbers he is providing really show that the voting booth is necessary there.

  26. Douglas Wiken 2014.09.20

    How many registered voters in Wanblee? The population data seems to make that number rather low.

    Can people vote on election day in Wanblee?

    I have suggested mobile early voting vehicles for remote areas with limited populations. That would seem to make sense or provide a free copying machine for IDs.

    It makes no sense to have somebody sitting in an office for 45 days or so doing next to nothing so 50 or 100 people can vote early especially when the unemployment rate suggests they have nothing better to do than vote by mail or take time on election day.

    It might be tough to live on $17,000 a year, but even then, a dollar for postage stamps would not seem to be an unbearable burden.

  27. JeniW 2014.09.20

    As I mentioned, the letter writing is not impossible.

    At the moment, getting the copy of the photo ID might be.

    That would be great if there were vehicles to transport people! The question is who would provide it, who would pay for it, and who would coordinate the effort?

    I don't think it would be necessary to have someone in the office everyday. One day every couple of weeks, with the time and location well publicized, would probably be sufficient.

    Even if the number of registered voters might be low, that does not mean that the voters of low populated areas are less important than the people who live in cities of millions of people.

  28. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.20

    It ceases to amaze me how racist white farmers and ranchers living on or near reservations believe they always have the solutions to issues facing Indians. I would never presume to tell a white person that regardless of their income they could spend a dollar to vote.
    To Cory's point, the solution to voting in Jackson County is for a federal court to order the county and the state to provide a satellite voting center, and to do by next Thursday. Gant has the money for this.
    Even with the satellite voting center there remains the need to get voters to the polls whether are 20 of them or 20,000 of them.
    The SDDP needs to get off its butt and start the grassroots voting drives they once did, it takes a few volunteers, a car and some money for gas. For years, party candidates would tap volunteers to provide this service, I always carried a number of people to polls in Pine Ridge, elder and disable need rides.
    Every vote coming out of Jackson County counts and could mean a Weiland or Wismer victory.
    One of the biggest fears the GOP has with the mid-terms is that minorities will vote. Jason Gant is a part of that movement.
    How to beat the GOP? Organize at all levels. There isn't much time, the organizing needs to start today.

  29. Tim 2014.09.20

    RC, you are to easy on Jackson County, they should be sued and taken to court for what they are, just like the Chamberlain School Board.

  30. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.20

    Yea, I suspect that is likely.

    It is frustrating for me when I see the good people of that part of Jackson County being abused, they have enough daily obstacles associated with poverty to overcome everyday. And than to top it all off, rednecks criticize them and the county and state deny them the fundamental right to vote.
    Besides, I have a special place in my heart for Wanblee and the Interior area, that is where my grandparents and mother lived for years.

  31. Tim 2014.09.20

    I was just in Wamblee earlier this week working, the people there have always treated me with the upmost respect, they deserve the same. I have been working in that area for years, they are good people. It just makes my blood boil when I read this stuff, everybody in this country has a right to vote and "put their two cents in", how dare the Jackson County commission and SOS Gant to try to stand in the way. F'ing racists can't even claim money as a reason, sorry Roger, I just wish their was more lowly voters like myself could do. My car gets pretty good gas mileage(it's not very big) if you want to try to organize to get people that want to vote to Kadoka. Cory has my email, let me know!

  32. Roger Cornelius 2014.09.20

    This is the type of conversation that is needed between now and election day, thank you.
    Cory, if you would please hook me up to Tim, I'll more than happy to coordinate an effort to get out the vote in Wanblee and its rural areas.
    I'll get in contact with Team Weiland and work with them on this effort, perhaps we can get Rick to Wanblee and make a statement on Republican voter suppression in Indian Country.
    Thanks again Tim, we need more like you.

Comments are closed.