South Dakota State-Tribal Relations Committee meets without Gov. Noem

The Governor bucked the invitation to attend the meetings, citing unfair treatment from committee members towards her staff.
Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 5:46 PM MDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - The South Dakota State-Tribal Relations Committee moved forward without Governor Kristi Noem or any members of her staff after they declined to attend any more meetings for now. The declination because of what she and her staff believed was unfair treatment by committee members at past meetings.

The meeting went on with discussions regarding voting issues and topics from last month’s meeting, to include COVID-19 checkpoints on reservations and education-related issues on Native American reservations throughout the state.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett spoke on using Tribal IDs as identification at the ballot box.

“A Tribal ID is accepted if an individual is already registered to vote, a Tribal ID is accepted to vote at the polls. They can use it to vote in-person absentee, and you can also use a Tribal ID to request an absentee ballot mailed to your house. So that’s what you can do with it, but to register to vote, you need to have a driver’s licenses or non-driver ID issued by the state of South Dakota.” Barnett said.

The Secretary’s office also discussed funding for satellite offices, which makes it easier to access ballot boxes in rural areas, particularly on Native American reservations.

Barnett’s office clarified that HAVA funds could be used to help train new election workers ahead of the general election in November. The federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) provides federal grants and guidance to improve the accuracy and fairness of voting in America. Grants can be given to help upgrade systems used in elections. HAVA funds were replenished by the CARES Act of 2020.

Kea Warne, Director of the Division of Elections, clarified that to get a mail-in ballot to the county auditor, one stamp is sufficient.

The Chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe, Boyd Gourneau, said that he has not heard from the Governor’s office, or any branch of the state government, in regards to his tribes continued use of checkpoints. The Lower Brule tribe sits just about an hour from Pierre.

The chairman of the committee, Shawn Bourdeaux (D-Mission), expressed disappointment in the fact that Governor Kristi Noem declined federal unemployment benefits. He said the state has to match only $100 to the federal government’s $300 per person benefits could only serve to provide economic benefits to South Dakota. The committee agreed to gather specific unemployment numbers from on and around reservations to show why the need for federal unemployment is justified.

The next State-Tribal Relations committee meeting is set to take place at some point in September but is currently not scheduled.

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