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Early-Voting Lawsuit Advances Against Jackson County

SDPB reports that U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier has ruled against a motion to dismiss the Indian voting rights lawsuit against Jackson County. American Indian plaintiffs brought this suit last September when Jackson County refused to avail itself of Help America Vote Act money made available by the state to open a satellite early-voting station in the reservation community of Wanblee. Then-U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson weighed in in favor of the Native plaintiffs last January.

Now Judge Schreier has ruled that the lawsuit may go forward, over the objection of Indian-fighter Sara Frankenstein and the rest of Jackson County’s legal team. According to the order issued May 1, Jackson County argues that the four Oglala Sioux plaintiffs have no standing because they haven’t shown that Jackson County stopped them from registering or voting or that they had no way to get to the polls in Kadoka. However, Judge Schreier says, “Plaintiffs need not show they were unable to vote or that the challenged practices were more than an inconvenience, they only need to allege facts that, assumed to be true, show their legally protected right to equal access to the electoral process was infringed” [p. 10].

Schreier’s ruling contains many other technical discussions of standing and standards for court review, but perhaps the most important line is this quote from Reynolds v. Sims (1964):

The right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.

That statement is as important to the efforts of Thomas Poor Bear and his Native neighbors to secure equality at the polls as it is to our efforts to refer and reverse Senate Bill 69, the Legislature’s effort to take away your right to nominate and vote for Independents and reduce the overall number of candidates on your ballot. As a committed small-d democrat, I cheer Judge Schreier’s logic and ruling in favor of the Wanblee plaintiffs and look forward to their victory over Jackson County’s efforts to curtail Indian voting rights.


  1. Paul Seamans 2015-05-05 12:30

    Maybe the residents of Wanblee should start a drive to move the county seat from Kadoka to Wanblee. I would guess that the majority of the population is in southern Jackson County.

  2. jerry 2015-05-05 13:43

    I have wondered the same thing Mr. Seamans, not only for Jackson County but for moving the one in Lower Brule as well. Makes sense to move where the population is rather than away from it.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-05 15:09

    This is good news. Republican efforts to restrict voting rights are being challenged on several fronts across the country. Republican Oligarchy v. democratic democracy. (Redundant, but extra emphasis seems called for.)

  4. Bill Dithmer 2015-05-05 16:38

    ” Maybe the residents of Wanblee should start a drive to move the county seat from Kadoka to Wanblee.”

    Sounds good when ya write it doesnt it? Where are you going to find the money to build a new courthouse? Where would you find the new employees for that courthouse? And most importantly, there is no way in hell to run the Jackson  County Sheriff’s Department from the Pine Ridge.

    The Blindman

  5. larry kurtz 2015-05-05 16:56

    Why haven’t the residents of Wanblee petitioned to become part of Oglala Lakota County?

  6. larry kurtz 2015-05-05 17:04

    Kadoka is a hole of biblical proportions and should be annexed by Haakon County.

  7. Bill Dithmer 2015-05-05 17:56

    Larry, thats why other towns along th I prospered and The hole in the wall, just existed.

    The new county you are talking about would be about 130 miles long, from east to west, and right at 60 miles wide.

    Bennett is bankrupt now because they cant stop arresting people and spending money they dont have in the court system either in inmate houseing or actual cost of trial.

    That would leave Jackson and Oglala Lakota. Jackson might be in as deep as Bennett so I’d be leary of hitching up with it to. Hell I’d even come home to campaign for that but it would never happen.

    I’m still mad that old Washabaugh had to incorporate with Jackson. At that time Washabaugh had what today isnt much, $150,000 in our road department. Jackson County got that money. The kids from south of the river, just went to school in town.

    Besides, wouldnt that create an even bigger voting distance to drive, no mater where you lived in the county? No matter where youd put the county seat, it would be more then 30 miles for sixty percent of the population to get to.

    And then there is still that pesky law enforcement deal. But if you can find the money go for it, but I can assure you that the people in Wanblee like the county seat right where it is.

    The Blindman

  8. larry kurtz 2015-05-05 18:06

    Meade and Butte Counties are that big, Bill so is Pennington: Wyoming border to Wall. Sad that ex-pats have solutions to South Dakota’s problems while residents are clueless.

  9. larry kurtz 2015-05-05 18:14

    One economic development opportunity on the rez could be a shuttle service run by an entity all the communities would trust to depots with rail service to Sioux Falls and Rapid. The feds owe the tribes billions for exploiting the Black Hills and dumping mine waste in Oahe while portions of the Black Hills remain poorly managed by state agencies and private owners.

    Stupid state.

  10. Bill Dithmer 2015-05-05 18:34

    Yup all three of those counties are big but without sizable portions that are the “r” word. It doesnt mater which side anyone is on here, everybody looses. It would be like living in an HOA and finding out you painted your house a forbidden color. You wasted time and money, but it was agreed on before you bought the house.

    If you think the rv people that claim the Chip are something, just try to move those county boundries again.

    The Blindman

  11. larry kurtz 2015-05-05 18:55

    Chadron’s airport just anointed an out of state carrier with the blessing of an Essential Air Service subsidy while Pierre struggles to keep the sewers running effectively enough to evacuate the stench of the previous session but Gov. DD says pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

    Rich Benda for Governor.

  12. grudznick 2015-05-05 19:35

    Chadron for capitol of the rewilded west, an island nation floating amongst the tribes who have achieved Mexican Statehood.

  13. grudznick 2015-05-05 19:40

    Mr. kurtz is right. South Dakota, the state he foams and rants about during every waking moment and drools and mumbles about in his dreams, should have only 6 counties. 12 school districts. 24 legislative districts. 4 year term limits on a 1-year-rotating basis so somebody is up every year. And school superintendents should be elected by the population at-large.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2015-05-05 20:25

    This is good news for tribal members in Jackson County.
    Now what will the next move be to block Indians from voting, surely they have something evil up their sleeves.

    On a somewhat related note amidst the riots and protests last week in Baltimore there were Democrats out in force registering voters.

  15. grudznick 2015-05-05 20:39

    Mr. C, I submit it’s good news for anybody living in Jackson County but away from Kadoka. Some people call Kadoka “Philip South”, but not me. Philip is a garden spot while Kadoka is a bit of a wasteland with I-90 running nearby.

  16. leslie 2015-05-06 01:26

    Anne T.-SDDP should be watching this and organizing state-wide redistricting with DOJ to attack Dist. 33-type illegalities in restricting the vote by SDGOP.

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