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Poor Bear Plaintiffs Say Jackson County Early-Voting Agreement Not Enough, Push for Preclearance

The Jackson County Commission has finally surrendered to demands for voting equality and agreed to establish a satellite early voting station in Wanblee for the next four primary and general elections. Problem solved, right? No need for Thomas Poor Bear and his Lakota neighbors to continue their lawsuit against Jackson County, right?

Not so fast, said plaintiffs’ attorney Matthew Rappold, of Rapid City. “Defendants’ belated and partial attempt to correct their discriminatory conduct will not allow them to avoid examination in open court and oversight by a federal judge and monitor.”

The county’s attempt is “partial” because Poor Bearasks the court for a permanent federal-elections satellite office, not a temporary one. The plaintiffs also want Jackson County, where Natives couldn’t vote until the 1970s or hold office until the 1980s, to be subject to Justice Department oversight, including federal election monitors and pre-clearance of new voting laws and procedures. Further, plaintiffs want protections for all elections, local and federal.

Pre-eminent civil rights attorney Laughlin McDonald, who is director emeritus of the ACLU Voting Rights Project and author of American Indians and the Fight for Equal Voting Rights,called the motion to dismiss “another effort to shortchange American Indian voters” [Stephanie Woodard, “End-Run on Native Rights—Will It Work?Indian Country Media, 2015.11.23].

O.J. Semans, director of voting rights advocacy organization Four Directions, reminds Woodard that Indian voters still need the protection sought by the Poor Bear lawsuit to prevent a repeat of the voter suppression efforts carried out by Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett at the Pine Ridge satellite early voting station in 2014. Four Directions spokesman Bret Healy says one of the key protections Poor Bear seeks is preclearance:

In addition to demanding an early vote center in Wanblee, the plaintiffs also requested a federal judge to find that Jackson County had violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They asked the judge to force the county into what’s known as section 3 preclearance.

A judge can force a government body into section 3 preclearance if it finds that a jurisdiction discriminated against minorities. Preclearance would require Justice Department approval of changes to a county’s voting plan, precinct place locations and other issues related to elections.

Charles Mix County is currently subject to section 3 preclearance [Jonathan Ellis, “County Settles, But Court Case Not Over,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.].

A Klansman doesn’t get out of assault charges by apologizing and promising not to beat up black folks for eight years. Jackson County has still violated basic rights, and Indian voters need full restoration and protection of those rights.


  1. Paul Seamans 2015-11-24 07:17

    Jackson County thought that they could thumb their noses at the Indian voters. Didn’t work. Now Jackson County may be looking at a long period of federal oversight.

  2. mike from iowa 2015-11-24 08:26

    Hope Poor Bear prevails AND is allowed to kick whitey in the below the belt nether region for past,present and future acts of discrimination. A few extra millions in compensatory damages wouldn’t hurt,either.

  3. jerry 2015-11-24 09:20

    Good deal on keeping up the fight. 4 cycles is not such a long time for the satellite office and then it would vanish like the rest of the promises that have been made in the past. Besides, Sara needs the work and this will keep her in the minds of others who want to do the same thing. Loosing is so uncool that marks take notice.

  4. Bill Dithmer 2015-11-24 09:24

    It looks like there will be a lot fewer roads plowed south of the river when that BIA agreement for TTP funds runs out this time.

    The Blindman

  5. jerry 2015-11-24 09:35

    Larry Kurtz has the solution for the BIA agreement blindman, have the old Washabaugh leave Jackson to join Oglala Lakota County. Put the county seat in Kyle and move on. The non Indians get Jackson to do with as they please and everyone is pleased. Now a satellite office could remain in Wanblee for the non Indian voters in Oglala Lakota County.

  6. Bill Dithmer 2015-11-24 09:44

    Never happen jerry. If you are thinking this is some new idea think again, the votes have been there for a long time but the elders know what would happen if they decided to add on to the cou ty to the southwest.

    The Blindman

  7. jerry 2015-11-24 10:15

    Then if the BIA does not do the agreement, the locals will have to plow their own roads.

  8. Bill Dithmer 2015-11-24 10:46

    Remember Jerry, for the most part those people that live on the BIA roads aren’t white, but are the very same natives that lack reliable transpertation to get them to Kadoka or Long Valley school to vote. They sure dont have the means to plow their roads to their propane tanks.

    The Blindman

  9. jerry 2015-11-24 13:36

    Then the BIA needs adequate funding to do so as it always does. Stop the money from being squandered in Washington’s high rises to feed the machine there and put it where it does the good, locally. In this case, there are to many chiefs feeding at the trough in the higher levels of the BIA in Washington. What do they do there? No one seems to know. They seem to be doing something, but what?

  10. jerry 2015-11-24 13:40

    Speaking of propane tanks, there was a discussion regarding energy efficient homes and the lack of them. When you consider reservation homes, you consider those that are not very efficient for the most part. They use a lot of fuel that should warrant updated housing that would be energy efficient. If you have those, along with a wind charger and panels for solar collection, you could wait out a storm.

  11. Douglas Wiken 2015-11-25 10:13

    Jerry, making that kind of a sensible suggestion can get you labeled as a racist bigot.

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