Voters on South Dakota Reservations report problems, despite recent lawsuit

Voter issues continue of South Dakota reservations, despite recent lawsuit
Published: Oct. 23, 2022 at 7:48 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -Imagine arriving to register to vote, but you see a gate closed in front of the building. Or you are driving 30 minutes to a voter registration center only to find out the staff closed it early. Unfortunately, these are claims of what still is happening on South Dakota reservations.

After a National Voter Registration Act lawsuit announcement last May, where a judge agreed with 15 of the 20 claims of voter obstacles, there was hope for better access going up to the November 8th election.

Representative Shawn Bordeaux discovered firsthand that there were still problems in Mission.

“And I asked him why it is that we’re only open for six hours on Tuesday and Thursday to vote, whereas everybody else is Monday through Friday from nine to five?” said Bordeaux.

And when he arrived to vote, he said the office had closed early.

“And she cut out at 2:30 pm, and that was disappointing to me,” said Bordeaux.

Reports of a closed gate in front of the early voting building come from the Pine Ridge Reservation, where the word is spreading to request for the gate to be opened, and they’ll let you in.

Chase iron eyes of the Lakota Law Project is frustrated that voter rights issues seem to be continuing, despite the recent lawsuit.

“Tribal Nations had to bring this in the first place to compel South Dakota to comply with United States law,” said Iron Eyes.

On election day, Bourdeaux believes voters could be better served at different locations on the Rosebud reservation.

“Each of our 20 communities has one of these community centers. Just vote in these tribal buildings,” suggests Bordeaux.

South Dakota Satellite voting centers document provided by the Secretary of State's Office on...
South Dakota Satellite voting centers document provided by the Secretary of State's Office on October 21, 2022. Representative Bordeaux says the Mission office is now open Monday through Friday.(South Dakota Satellite voting centers jpg)

“Native people don’t have a choice but to try to increase our participation has increased our engagement in state and federal politics because those are places where legislators need to know who we are,” said Iron Eyes.

New changes on behalf of the tribe could improve voter turnout. The Pine ridge reservation scheduled their tribal elections on the same day as the state election, November 8th.

“Tribes have to be creative in how they enhance political participation and political engagement. Making the Election Day coincide is perfect,” said Iron Eyes.

Embracing traditions during elections can help.

“To do that, we’re going to have to involve things that we already like sports, culture, dance, music, and art,” said Iron Eyes.

A community gathering that includes voter registration happened over the weekend in Rapid City; The Ocheti Vote weekend. While voter registration was available, so was a basketball tournament, singing, and a concert, along with door prizes for those registered to vote.