Press "Enter" to skip to content

Jackson County Spending $1.5M to Resist Setting up $20K Voting Centers for Indians

Your tax dollars are hard at work defending Jackson County’s dogged desire to keep it hard for Indians to vote. Even though the West River county has Judge Karen Schreier and the federal Election Assistance Commission telling them they can use Help America Vote Act money to set up a satellite early voting station at Wanblee for its large Indian population far from the Kadoka courthouse, Jackson County continues to drag out a lawsuit filed by local Indian voters demanding such voting access.

Funny: Jackson County can’t bear to stick taxpayers with the cost of helping Indians vote, but they are happy to stick taxpayers with the lawyer bill for defending their racism:

Bret Healy, a spokesman for the Indian voting rights group Four Directions, was one of those deposed last week in Kadoka. He said there were five lawyers involved on both sides and a court reporter.

“Every week that goes by that they keep fighting is another week they have to pay both sides,” he said.

Jackson County, however, is not footing the bill. The county is a member of the South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance, an insurance pool of more than 400 government entities in South Dakota. Those governments use taxpayer dollars to buy insurance through the alliance. Sioux Falls, the pool’s largest member, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

…Settling, Healy said, is in the best interest of the governments that are members of the alliance. A worst-case scenario would see Jackson County losing and then appealing to the Eight Circuit Court. Under that scenario, he added, the only benefiting entity would be Gunderson Palmer Nelson & Ashmore, the Rapid City law firm representing Jackson County.

“It’s a million-and-a-half dollars coming out of South Dakota taxpayers just so Gunderson Palmer can continue to bill the insurance pool,” Healy said [link added; Jonathan Ellis, “Voting Rights Case Enters Costly Phase,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.08.15].

Four Directions has estimated that three satellite early voting centers set up under a reasonable compromise would cost $20,000.* A million and a half dollars would fund an early voting station in Wanblee and two more around the reservation for 75 election cycles, through 2190.

*Correction 2015.08.17 21:57 CDT: I reviewed my December 2013 post and found that Healy cited $20K as the cost of establishing three satellite early voting stations, not just one. I have revised the text to reflect that lower per-station cost.


  1. 96Tears 2015-08-16 08:47

    These pig-headed bigots are a national embarrassment. If Daugaard wants to emulate the Year of Reconciliation efforts from George Mickelson’s tenure as governor, he can start by shining the Klieg lights on these cockroaches as a glaring example of what all South Dakotans will no longer tolerate.

    Of course, if giving a rat’s ass about any people of color is beyond a Republican’s dignity in South Dakota, the county officials should be harangued for wasting state taxes on a completely lost and illogical pursuit. Gunderson Palmer Nelson & Ashmore should be ordered by the governor and the legislature to pay back any money they’ve received from the county to do the bidding of racists.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-08-16 10:04

    Sounds like run of the mill, fiscally responsible wingnuts to this child. That is another mil and a half damn tax and spend Dems can’t waste,now ain’t it.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-16 10:10

    96, you make a good point about renewed reconciliation. Reconciliation doesn’t have to be just talk and photo ops. A governor interested in reconciliation could take the initiative and stand up for voting rights in Jackson County. He could call a press conference with the Secretary of State to say, “We have the money for satellite voting centers. We expect every county with underserved Native populations to implement these stations. If they don’t, we will send staff from Pierre to operate these centers. And we won’t honor any other requests for state assistance from these counties until they get with the program on Indian voting rights. The Indian vote will be heard.”

    Reconciliation will require a lot of listening, but we can build that relationship with some action.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-16 10:11

    Mike, notice that the insurance alliance chairman, Dennis Olson, calls the lawsuit “frivolous.” Yeah, because defending equal access to the ballot for Indians is frivolous. Grrr.

  5. mike from iowa 2015-08-16 11:36

    Maybe I should have posted a snark alert with my comment. The chairman’s comment is typical of wingnuts as well.

  6. Porter Lansing 2015-08-16 12:01

    Mail in ballots solve many problems with voter disenfranchisement. Like cameras on cops, they benefit both sides.

  7. Paul Seamans 2015-08-16 13:50

    When the former Washabaugh County was dissolved and absorbed into Jackson County I never did know the particulars on the situation. Did Jackson Co. have a say in the matter or did the state of SD make that decision. Did Jackson agree to the addition because they thought there would be a bigger tax base? Did Bennett County have a chance to annex Washabaugh and passed on it? Did Ogalala Lakota County have the opportunity to annex Washabaugh. The people of the former Washabaugh, both native and non-native are being dumped on.

  8. larry kurtz 2015-08-16 14:09

    Oglala Lakota County should annex the Wanblee metro area and send Pierre a bill.

  9. Rorschach 2015-08-16 15:08

    One of the bright spots in this debacle is Shantel Krebs. She inherited this mess, but according to the Ellis article she’s had productive discussions with Four Directions, and she’s working with other counties to prevent them from alienating voters and throwing taxpayer dollars into losing propositions such as this. I’m impressed with her performance in office so far.

  10. jerry 2015-08-16 16:27

    I think that it is good that the states taxpayers have to foot the bill for Jackson Counties racism. That means that the entire state is complicit in the racism as they do not say a word about how clear the racism is. Now, when the case is settled, my hope is that there is some kind of suit that is filed for millions against state that keeps going as well. By the time it is over, the Natives will have made enough off the racism directed at them to buy Jackson County.

  11. Roger Elgersma 2015-08-16 16:45

    Is there a way to take lawyers to court for wasting government money. Oh no! they would love dragging that one out for a very long time.

  12. jerry 2015-08-16 17:16

    Here is another way lawyers are mucking up the system for the republicans yet again.

    Mr. Elgersma, the first way to stop wasting government money is to eliminate republican governance. That is the root and branch of what ails this great country.

  13. grudznick 2015-08-16 18:23

    If people would just go to the polls and vote it would solve all the whining. Oh, wait…

  14. jerry 2015-08-16 20:04

    Jackson County has finally figured out how to bring needed revenue into the place. They must think they are cutting a fat hog as you can find help wanted requests to run heavy equipment there. It appears though that you cannot drink whiskey in the town of Kadoka as the municipal bar is now shuttered due to some kind of mismanagement or lack thereof. By fighting the Natives, Jackson County may have discovered a new way to bring in the moolah or at least think they are. That would show a new level of the same kind of republican thinking that brought on the EB-5 fiasco. Still, as always, republicans cannot govern.

  15. grudznick 2015-08-16 20:13

    No whiskey in Kadoka? That is a bad thing, a very bad thing, and it needs to be fixed right prompt.

  16. larry kurtz 2015-08-16 20:17

    Difficult to know who is more thick: Lynn or grud.

  17. grudznick 2015-08-16 20:26

    You’ve seen how fat I am, Lar, and I freely admit Lynn is smarter than most.

  18. Lynn 2015-08-16 20:52


    Remember Otis from Mayberry RFD? We have Larry from DFP.

  19. jerry 2015-08-16 20:56

    Sitting on the dock of the bay?? Otis Redding was the real deal.

  20. larry kurtz 2015-08-17 15:46

    Good read:

    An “ancestral Democrat,” Healy said he didn’t expect Wandering Medicine to be such a difficult case in Montana with two of the three counties led by Democrats, a Democratic secretary of state and the Democratic party platform calling for engagement with Indian Country. “I was shocked at the resistance. We’re used to having knock-down-drag-out fights in Republican South Dakota,” he said. “Folks don’t want to change.”</blockquote

  21. leslie 2015-08-17 16:40

    good article larry. how do weiland’s initiated measure re: voting commission, gerrymandering in rapid city’s dist. 33, jackson county satellites (and for that matter chamberlain’s rigid school board), north dakota, ariz. and montana’s blaine county ect. minority barriers to vote — have in common with grudz’ or les’ wringing hands over voter fraud or low percentage voting criticisms, depending on their lanes at the moment?

  22. leslie 2015-08-17 16:46

    what, not “how”?

    twitter @rickhasen for a legal scholars’s deep insight

  23. jerry 2015-08-17 18:49

    I guess the Feds need to step in to keep Jackson County from spending my tax dollars for their racism. I do not support Jackson County and wish to opt out.

  24. Paul Seamans 2015-08-17 18:58

    larry, I agree with leslie. Good article coming out of Montana. Although I totally disagree with Tester’s approval of the the Keystone XL I think he is a good man. Montana has a group, Western Native Voice, that is working hard to increase voter participation on Montana’s reservations and they are having some success. They are helping on getting some Indian people elected to the Montana legislature. There are plans for this group to help organize voter registration drives in South Dakota as well as North Dakota.

  25. leslie 2015-08-18 14:38

    linbaugh loves to confuse listeners with “dems just want power”. imagine if dems were in power in SD, as “in power” means huge war chests of public and political money to make choices like republicans do. that is all they do. where can they out-spend the opposition for political, racist and cruel reasons that support the 1%. it doesn’t happen that way with dems.

  26. larry kurtz 2015-08-18 21:30

    There is much to know, Paul: thanks for the satori.

  27. OJ Semans 2015-08-20 18:06

    Paul, Western Native Voice actually supported the Counties and the SOS and went as far as opposing the satellite offices at a County Commissioners meeting we attended asking for the offices. They are under Western Organization of Resource Councils run by a Pat Sweeney and their workers sat with the Defendants during the hearings. Although they have laid claim to doing all of these things it was an organization called Indian Peoples Action that worked on the satellite offices with us.

    Even with Western Native Voice supporting the Defendants we still won on behalf of Tribal members.

  28. Paul Seamans 2015-08-20 19:50

    I am totally taken aback by the fact that Western Native Voice and the Western Organization of Resource Councils would do this. Western Native Voice is under the umbrella of the Western Organization of Resource Councils as is Dakota Rural Action. I am on the board of DRA as well as WORC’s board. I have worked with Western Native Voice as well. I personally know Pat Sweeney. I cannot imagine that we would take the stance to be against the voting station in Jackson County. I will check into this and get back to you.

  29. OJ Semans 2015-08-21 10:29


    I was referring to the Wandering Medicine case in Montana. I do appreciate your concerns and wanted to thank you for your response in this matter.

  30. Paul Seamans 2015-08-21 13:02

    Thanks for clarifying that. I will check with our DRA staff to learn more about the Montana case. At our DRA bi-monthly board meetings we have committed ourselves to doing anything that we can to help with increasing native voter participation in South Dakota. We in DRA are concerned with many of the same issues as the native grassroots people and we seem to be working well together. This includes changing things through the ballot process.

  31. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-08-21 22:05

    Increase Native voter participation—that is a really good project for DRA, Paul! It seems to fit well with DRA’s mission of empowering rural people, since voting is very empowering, and lots of Indians are rural people (which is part of the whole reason they could use satellite early-voting stations).

  32. Gene 2016-01-18 13:42

    Did you know Four Directions started this lawsuit not because there weren’t any voting stations in Wanblee, but actually because there weren’t any *early* voting stations? There aren’t any early voting stations in Belvidere, Long Valley, Cottonwood, or Interior either, but Four Directions thinks it is especially bad that Wanblee doesn’t have an early voting station. South Dakota law only requires an early voting station in the county seat, which is Kadoka. On election days, there are voting stations in Wanblee. Plus, anyone, from anywhere in Jackson County, can vote early by mail.

    Did you know that the towns of Long Valley, Cottonwood, and Interior are much further away from Kadoka than is Wanblee, yet Four Directions isn’t interested in helping those towns, all of whom have Indian populations?

    Did you know that over a year ago Jackson County did provide the early voting station in Wanblee that Four Directions demanded, but Four Directions is refusing to dismiss its lawsuit? It isn’t Jackson County or the Gunderson Palmer law firm that is *wasting* tax payer money by dragging this out, it’s Four Directions and the four alleged residents that brought the lawsuit (I say alleged because apparently two of the four plaintiffs aren’t even living in Jackson County).

    Did you know that none of the 5 Jackson County commissioners are deemed Republicans (or Democrat for that matter)? So to allege that this is an example of Republican bias or racism is fundamentally false.

    Finally, did you know that the Indian residents of the former Washabaugh county don’t have to pay property taxes even though they are part of Jackson County? Yet they receive all of the benefits that those tax dollars pay for from the county, and now are receiving extra benefits like the early voting center that the rest of the county does not receive.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-01-18 14:48

    Nice try, Gene. Equal access is equal access. It does not continge on how much a citizen pays in taxes.

    And “alleged” residents? Would you care to document that accusation?

  34. OJ Semans Sr. 2016-01-18 16:34

    You say “did you know” a lot, suggesting you know. Prior to the law suit we did discuss with the Jackson County Commissioners and the Auditor about providing in-person absentee no excuse voting, but never early voting so I guess you don’t really know. It is difficult trying to respond to your comments because you state facts that are not facts into some of your thoughts that may be true.

    I will try to help you understand what is going on. There is no early voting in South Dakota, never was. So giving you the benefit that you don’t really know, I will presume you are talking about in-person absentee no excuse voting. That being the case Jackson County can authorize satellite offices in your communities for that purpose. As for our reasoning it’s simple if you have 5 ways to vote don’t try to force us to accept only two ways to vote. Did you know that is not equal,

    You do have it correct that the towns of Long Valley, Cottonwood, and Interior are much further away from Kadoka than is Wanblee and I did know that and yet your wrong Four Directions is interested in helping those towns, all of whom have Indian populations if it meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Because it appears you have great concerns for these communities, I would suggest you attend a commissioners meeting as we did and request the offices. Once you have done this please contact me (OJ Semans – and I will help you to see what steps you will need to take next

    Once again you confuse the issue by stating facts that are far from being facts and you are wrong in that Four Directions never demanded Jackson County provide the satellite office in Wanblee. Also Four Directions is not a Plaintiff in this Voting Rights case and cannot dismiss the lawsuit? Beings you have everything else wrong I’m not surprised you don’t agree that Jackson County or the Gunderson Palmer law firm is *wasting* tax payer money by dragging this out. Again you have your facts wrong and again I am not surprised because it is clear your intent is to defame an organization I am the Executive Director of and unlike you can respond with facts and the truth,

    As far as Jackson County commissioners being deemed Republicans (or Democrat for that matter) it matters not to me, wrong is wrong regardless of what party you represent. In fact in Montana the Secretary of State was a democrat and in South Dakota it was a republican. Four Directions has never stated Republican Party was bias or racists so your allegation stating so is fundamentally false.

    Finally, the real reason you have made false allegations and misrepresented the facts, it has nothing to do with a satellite office, you just don’t want us to vote because of property taxes. I’ll make a deal with you if you can get the State Legislatures to pass a law the only allowed those individuals who pay property taxes to vote I and Four Directions will not file a voting rights law suit, we will be happy just like every other person who rents from property owners or those who do not own land. Although the United States Supreme Court has already said this is against the Constitution, and you will have far more to worry about then Four Directions, it seems right up your alley to challenge that status.

    Did you know I’m being sarcastic?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.