Shad Olson’s attempt to deny two legally elected Lakota women their seats in the Legislature and disenfranchise Native American voters in District 27 has taken on a fake name and more fake arguments.
On Thursday, an e-mail from “Native Integrity” but not signed by any identifiable individual went out to all South Dakota legislators recycling Shad Olson’s thus-far tractionless claim that Senator-Elect Red Dawn Foster and Representative-Elect Peri Pourier—both Lakota women, both Democrats, both from Pine Ridge—have not been residents of South Dakota long enough to qualify to serve in the Legislature.
Recall that Shad Olson’s argument hinges on Article 3 Section 3 of the South Dakota Constitution, which states that legislators must have been “a resident of the state for two years next preceding election.”
Senator-Elect Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown), whose long experience in the Legislature should carry some weight, says “This is stupid. Election is over.”
Schoenbeck is right: Olson’s attack on these elected Lakota women and District 27 is stupid. None of the documents presented by the pseudonymous cowards e-mailing legislators establishes that either Foster or Pourier has not been a resident of South Dakota since November 2016.
One document actually contradicts Olson’s claim against Pourier. Look at this voter registration acknowledgment notice from Oglala Lakota County Auditor Sue Ganje to Pourier, dated October 30, 2017, but marked returned and received November 6, 2017:
Notice that the United States Postal Service stamped on this card as the reason for returning to sender “TEMPORARILY AWAY.”
The only relevant statute on South Dakota’s very squishy definition of residency, SDCL 12-1-4, says, “A person who has left home and gone into another state or territory or county of this state for a temporary purpose only has not changed his or her residence.”
Shad Olson and whoever else is behind Native Integrity have just handed every member of the House a document from the United States Postal Service certifying that Pourier was away from South Dakota for a temporary purpose, which means, by statute, she had not changed her residence from South Dakota in 2017. Pourier won the 2018 election and is qualified to take her seat in the 2019 Legislature.
The Foster dossier includes a document establishing that Red Dawn Foster was a registered voter in South Dakota as of March 10, 2016:
Now the fact that Foster was registered to vote in Colorado prior to March 2016 could have been a problem in her bid to win a District 27 House seat in 2016, but she didn’t win that election, and as we keep having to remind Trumpists like Shad Olson, it’s not 2016 anymore. Foster was a registered voter in South Dakota in 2016. Olson’s own documents say so, and no other documents say that legal voting residence changed afterward. Foster won the 2018 election and is qualified to take her seat in the 2019 Legislature.
Yeah, I guess if I’d just knocked the legs out from under my own argument, I’d be embarrassed to sign my name to my e-mail, too, because one of the last things I want is to give Lee Schoenbeck good reason to call me stupid.
Olson does drum up a couple of white Republican ranchers, Republican campaign donor Kenny L. Fox of Belvidere and incoming Bennett County Commissioner Judd W. Schomp of Martin, to submit documents supporting the disenfranchisement of their Native neighbors:
These documents add no evidence to the record. Fox and Schmop swear to hearsay based on documents they’ve apparently been handed by Olson or some other “Native Integrity” operative. They complain and pray for relief, but the documents they parrot not only provide no legal grounds for not seating either legislator but also actively disprove their claims and establish that Pourier and Foster satisfy the legal residency requirements of Article 3 Section 3.
Of course, documentary evidence, burden of proof, and the courts don’t matter in this fuss. Even though Schomp’s and Fox’s documents are marked Sixth Circuit Court, the courts are in no position to offer relief. As we know from the Gutzler 1977 precedent, the courts have no authority over which duly elected officials take seats in the Legislature. Article 3 Section 9 of the South Dakota Constitution puts that plenary authority over Legislative membership in the hands of each chamber of the Legislature, and when the Legislature exercised that authority in the Gutzler case in 1977, it chose to respect the will of the voters, even though Gutzler, unlike Pourier or Foster, was clearly, by evidence and by his own admission, not a resident of South Dakota two years prior to his 1976 election.
Senator-Elect Schoenbeck recognizes the baselessness and pettiness of this challenge. Let’s hope his colleagues in the Senate and across the hall in the House share his clarity of vision and waste no time with this groundless complaint when the Legislature begins its work on January 8. The election is over. District 27 chose Pourier and Foster. Respect precedent, facts, and the will of the voters. Seat all elected legislators and get to work.