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Feds Protecting Yankton Sioux and Pine Ridge Voting Rights

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.


  1. These folks need to learn from the feisty auditor of Dewy County, the commissioners, the tribal leaders and the regular folks who sit at the polls doing election duty. The auditor's office calls both tribal members and non-tribal members to volunteer. While still dealing with long drives in parts of the rez (Ziebach County side), Dewey County is leading South Dakota in working with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe members and leaders. Other South Dakota counties need to sit up and take notice.

  2. jerry 2014.11.04

    Exactly Ms. Livermont, that is what needs to be done. Voting is our democracy and it should be made as easy as possible to make sure that all voices are at the table.

  3. Loren 2014.11.04

    Is this the last we will hear from Gant? Hopefully!

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.04

    Kudos to Dewey! Can we get the local auditor to run for Secretary of State in 2018?

  5. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.04

    Any time the Fall River County sheriff shows up in Indian Country locals wonder why in the hell he is there, the jurisdiction question rises. Some voters, I am told, did feel intimidated just by his presence, what was he doing at a polling place, regardless on his intent.

    I'm the GOTV movement at Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge is flowing with people, this group has made a significant difference this year, let's hope that Shannon County, name soon to be changed, will keep the senate in the hands of Democrats.

  6. Steve Sibson 2014.11.04

    "the state needs to take those county officials out of the picture, create autonomous, Native-run voting districts"

    Are those districts sovereign?

  7. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.04

    CNN reported earlier today that federal poll watchers were in 18 states, most or all of them being Republican states that have attempted to prevent minority voters.

  8. Tasiyagnunpa Livermont 2014.11.04

    The counties are on the reservations and handle our public elections. Creating tribal-only jurisdictions would go against the constitutional rights of non-tribal members. Our system can work just fine...Dewey County has proven that.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.11.04

    Roger, that tendency speaks volumes.

    Tasi, we need that auditor in Dewey County to go on the road when this election is done and explain to her colleagues how to get things done!

  10. grudznick 2014.11.04

    That bossturd Gant is messing with the Indian voters again and withholding their election results? That is just mind boggling.

  11. Roger Cornelius 2014.11.04

    Read the article, Gant is messing or withholding results, they are being delayed because one polling place opened an hour late and they will make up that hour by closing at 8.

  12. grudznick 2014.11.04

    Oh. I didn't see the article yet. Sorry Mr. Gant. Good on ya.

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