For the most part, we run pretty good elections in South Dakota. But because we just can't guarantee voting rights for American Indians, the federal Department of Justice has to send election monitors to our reservations:
Election monitors will be at the Yankton Sioux tribe in Charles Mix County and the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in Shannon County.
The monitors will be checking on whether voters are being subject to different voting procedures on the basis of race, color, or membership in a language minority group [A. Willson, "Election Day Monitors in Place," AP via KNBN, 2014.11.04].
Secretary of State Jason Gant tries to cover his inability to guarantee equal voting access for all by blaming both sides:
Gant says the elections monitors arrived on Friday because of conflicting allegations of voter intimidation and improper voter influence.
Gant says a county official had concerns that a nonprofit organization was attempting to influence voters who were casting absentee ballots. Four Directions Executive Director Oliver Semans denied those claims.
Gant says the official requested a sheriff investigate the allegations at the early voting location.
Semans says Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett was intimidating Native American voters with his presence. Daggett told the Argus Leader last week he was there at County Auditor Sue Ganje's request ["Gant: DOJ Officials on Pine Ridge Through Election," AP, 2014.11.01].
DOJ's Civil Rights Division has monitors in 28 jurisdictions in 18 states, including Maricopa County in Arizona, Alameda and Napa counties in California, and Chicago, Illinois.
If we have to have federal officials on site every time we vote (as in 2010, though not in 2012) to ensure our Native neighbors' Constitutional rights, so be it. But the new Secretary of State should look for new reforms and new state resources to put toward ensuring that every Lakota, Nakota, and Dakota citizen can vote freely and easily. Where county officials are suppressing the Indian vote, the state needs to take those county officials out of the picture, create autonomous, Native-run voting districts, and ensure state observers are on site to protect voting rights and fairly enforce South Dakota election procedures.