Equal access to voting in Indian Country scored a big victory in the legislature this week – thanks in large part to the leadership of your Democratic legislators.
On Wednesday, January 22, Secretary of State Jason Gant defended SB 33, a bill his office drafted, in the Senate Local Government committee to deprive counties the ability to accept private funds for election administration.
Why is this important?
South Dakota has routinely denied equal access to early voting in counties with indian reservations. In absence of state or federal funds, some South Dakota counties have accepted donations from Four Directions, a Native American advocacy organization to provide for satellite voting offices on reservations for equal access to the ballot box. This bill would have made this practice illegal without any guarantee from the state to provide resources for equal access to early voting. In essence – no in person early voting in Indian country.
That’s going to create voting access issues – even if Gant tries playing dumb about it:
Sen. Soholt: “Will there be voting access issues for some of the citizens of our state?” Gant: “Voting access?”
— David Montgomery (@ArgusMontgomery) January 22, 2014
Thankfully, with incisive questions from Sen. Angie Buhl O’Donnell in the Senate Local Government committee and the testimony of Rosebud Sioux Tribe member Rep. Troy Heinert (D-Mission), Oglala Sioux Tribe member Rep. Kevin Killer (D-Pine Ridge), the committee rejected Secretary Gant’s bill.
Four Directions’ executive director OJ Semans summed up his opposition to this bill well: “I never thought that providing equal access to Native Americans was considered influencing an election,” he said. “I consider equal access to the ballot box the backbone of our democracy.”
Show your Democratic legislators you stand with them in defense of voting rights by Rep. Kevin Killer’s petition today. With your show of support, we can keep fighting to protect all South Dakota voters every election.