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Native American tribes sue South Dakota over voting registration rights

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 9:57 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Some Native American tribes have come together in a lawsuit against South Dakota, claiming that the state has failed to register indigenous voters.

The Oglala and Rosebud Sioux Nations are alleging that the State has failed to comply with the National Voter Registration Act, a federal law committed to protecting United States citizen’s right to register to vote at places like the DMV or public assistance agencies.

The attorney on the case, Samantha Kelty, says the lawsuit spells out instances where these agencies failed to comply with federal law that mandates them to register new voters.

“There was a voter that walked 30 miles from Porcupine to the Pine Ridge Department of Social Services Field Office in 12-degree weather to submit a change of address form. When he showed up, he should have been offered a voter registration application but he wasn’t. The department of Social Services failed in that regard. Afterward, we had a field investigator at the office that was investigating these violations, so the field investigator provided the client with the voter registration application, he filled it out, completed it, but then the staff person at the department threw it away.”

Kelty says there was an 84% decrease in the number of tribal members being registered to vote at public assistance agencies from 2004 to 2016.

During that period, Kelly says the use of those same agencies by tribal members increased by 80 percent. This is significant in that it shows that it isn’t for lack of trying that Native Americans are being denied this basic right.

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