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U.S. Attorney Johnson Supports Indian Lawsuit for Early Voting in Wanblee

While I was out and about on my blog tour last August, I learned that Jackson County was balking at a federally funded, state-approved plan to open a satellite early-voting center in Wanblee, a mostly Lakota community 28 miles from the courthouse in mostly white Kadoka. Four Pine Ridge Reservation voters sued the county in September for equal early-voting access.

That lawsuit prompted Jackson County to open a satellite voting station in Wanblee on October 20, giving them eleven days to vote early out of the 46 days before the election that early voting opens in South Dakota. Jackson County thinks that action makes everything hunky-dory and wants the lawsuit dismissed. Luckily, our U.S. Attorney, Brendan Johnson, disagrees:

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says the county’s refusal to open a satellite office – the cost for which can be reimbursed through Help America Vote Act funds – was not a reasonable response, given the state’s history with the Native American community.

“Let’s be clear, South Dakota does not have a proud history when it comes to providing Native Americans an equal right to vote,” Johnson said. “We should be doing more, not less, to protect the right of every South Dakotan to vote in our elections” [John Hult, "U.S. Attorney Scolds County on Voting Law," that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.01.02].

U.S. Attorney Johnson's Department of Justice has filed a brief arguing that Judge Karen Schreier should not grant Jackson County's motion to dismiss:

The Department of Justice response says the issues raised in the lawsuit are clearly within the scope of the act, however, and deserve a fair hearing.

“Courts have consistently interpreted Section 2 (of the Voting Rights Act) to cover all manner of voting procedures,” the DOJ brief says. “In particular, courts have repeatedly entertained Section 2 claims that involve access to polling places, to voter registration, and to opportunities for absentee and early voting” [Hult, 2015.01.02].

Our new Republican Secretary of State, like the last one, thinks satellite early-voting centers in Wanblee and other isolated American Indian communities are unnecessary. We'll see if their white-privileged thinking prevails with Judge Karen Schreier.

Update 09:44 CST: The Republican spin machine, which is still sore that it didn't get to run all of its pre-packaged propaganda against Brendan Johnson in the 2014 election, suggests that the only reason Johnson would "interject" the DOJ in the Jackson County voting rights dispute is to position himself to run for office in 2016... because, you know, it's inconceivable to Republicans that Lakota equality and the Voting Rights Act would motivate men of good conscience to act.


  1. larry kurtz 2015.01.03

    Related to your post on voting access, it would be interesting to know how much tribal gaming has affected commerce in Kadoka and whether Jackson County has enjoyed any benefit from area casinos. I have been wondering if a dollar store there would bring people off the rez to shop there rather than those folks trying to get into a Rapid City that hates Indians.

  2. Tim 2015.01.03

    Larry, your obsession with Rapid City is disturbing, have you seen a shrink about that?

  3. larry kurtz 2015.01.03

    Tim, seeing a lawyer about it would be far more therapeutic. Know any good ones?

  4. Tim 2015.01.03

    No I don't, have never met a good lawyer.

  5. leslie 2015.01.03

    rapid city deserves the wake-up kurtz dishes, and staying quiet about that, EB5, and every other liberal issue SDGOP attempts to tamp down, is needed. imagine what SD will be like under a republican United States Attorney. that day is coming too. look how troy, grudz, les and sibson continually try to take us off track and/or apologize for their party's deep deep flaws in treating people unfairly in this amazing nation.

    imo, no disrespect intended, repeating a truth is not a "cweepy obsession" many try to label as a liberal's effort to keep flagging issues that are unresolved.

    bruce ellison is exceptional, as i am sure you know larry. he could tell you who the good younger ones are.

    my approach with every outspoken republican, as well as catholics, as we recently discussed, is to call them out for their personal responsibility via membership in an institution that carries out disturbing agendas.

    republicans astoundingly participate in restricting the vote, and catholics participate in astoundingly covering-up the priest/child abuse problem. pretty big stuff. fundamental. there are no excuses for such intentional, severely detrimental, selfish policies.

  6. Jenny 2015.01.03

    Go Brendan Johnson! SD is even more corrupt than I thought if this Help America Vote Act will pay for this satellite office, and they won't even take advantage of it. A total disgrace!!

  7. larry kurtz 2015.01.03

    Thanks, leslie: Bruce and i have done work for each other and have spoken at length about Rapid's history of racism. He has done some research into freeing Leonard Peltier but we haven't been in contact for a while.

  8. Jenny 2015.01.03

    This Help America Vote Act was signed by one their own also, Dubya, so SD cons can't claim it's liberal cronyism.

  9. Tim 2015.01.03

    Well, since Rapid City must be the toilet you guys say it is, because you guys say it is, us people that are trying to change things here can just quit and rot with the rest of them? Nice

  10. Bill Dithmer 2015.01.03

    Larry, Prairie Winds is over a hundred miles from Kadoka, The Rosebud is about a hundred and twenty, give or take. The money that Kadoka gets from the people on the res comes from the Kadoka Bar, the only complete package liquor store in town, and ownd by the town. Then you can add the rollover money from the gas stations eateries and the grocery stores and thats it. Rounding out the private businesses would be a bunch of motels, a vet clinic, best in SD, an auto parts store, a tire shop, a flower shop, Double H feeds, and the elevator. If it weren't for the courthouse, the vets, or Double H, there wouldnt be a reason to go to Kadoka.

    There is a Dollar Store in Martin, we shopped there all the time.

    The Blindman

  11. Roger Cornelius 2015.01.03

    Every Indian in Jackson County spends all their money and EBT cards at the Kadoka Bar.

    Pine Ridge has a dollar store and likely has the same flow of traffic that any other dollar store in the area has.

    Indians travel to Rapid City for commerce and entertainment just as white ranchers and other that live in rural areas do.

    What a bunch of stereotypical crap!

  12. Bill Dithmer 2015.01.03

    Have they started excepting EBT cards at the Kadoka Bar Roger? Thats something new.

    The Blindman

  13. Roger Cornelius 2015.01.03

    You would probably know that better than I Bill.

    It is just one of stereotypes I have of bars near reservations, I assume all "Indian Bars" accept EBT cards just as you believe Indians spend their money at the Kadoka Bar.

  14. Bill Dithmer 2015.01.03

    Roger are you going to tell me that natives dont spend money at the Kadoka Bar?

    One of your problems is that you think everyone that lives on the res should be indian. If you notice I never said indian when referring to the people from the res. Thats because we all shop at the same damn places. Is everything about racism to you?

    Get a fucking life!

    The Blindman

  15. Les 2015.01.03

    leslie, you've got to be on track before you can be taken off track. I can only wonder how miserably life failed you to become this angry old white guy most likely forced out by all the change you could not confront face to face. You're now in a perfect world to slam from the security of your bedroom with the shades pulled into darkness.

  16. Paul Seamans 2015.01.03

    My take is that the native people are starting to realize that they need to become involved in what happens in the state legislature and how it affects them. Heaven help the party that snubs them. A current example of this involvement is the number of natives filed as intervenors in the PUC permit hearings for the Keystone XL.

  17. jerry 2015.01.03

    Correct Mr. Seamans. Native people are an absolute part of the system and in particular, here in South Dakota. The disgusting racism that was presented to the early voting in Wanblee is just another walk in the park for these horse's arses in the commissioners office in Kadoka. These bunch could have easily taken control and ordered Wilson to get her fanny down to get that office open pronto. It ain't like they have a lot to do there.

    I read here that there is also a large community of Natives in Sioux Falls, so with the two largest cities in South Dakota comes two large communities of voting bloc's that could send representatives to represent Native interests in Pierre or even further. Johnson just fired fired a shot across the bow of the good ship South Dakota, I hope that justice is served as this judge was a choice of Bill Clinton.

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