A lawsuit alleging that Jackson County has impaired Native Americans’ right to vote on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota will move forward, a federal judge ruled on May 1. Plaintiff Thomas Poor Bear, Vice President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, filed the lawsuit in September 2014, alleging that Jackson County’s refusal to open a satellite voter registration office on the reservation amounted to discrimination against Native American voters, many of whom did not have transportation to the county seat for voting. The defendants – Jackson County, County Auditor Vicki Wilson, and County Commissioners Glen Bennett, Larry Denke, Larry Johnston, Jim Stillwell and Ron Twiss – responded by filing a motion to dismiss, arguing “the complaint contains no facts showing that the plaintiffs were unable to vote absentee or vote by regular ballot.”
They contended members of the tribe suffered no injury “even if voting could be made more convenient.” But U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier disagreed.
“Plaintiffs are not simply asserting that it would be easier to vote absentee in-person than voting absentee by mail or voting on election day in person,” she wrote in a 26-page opinion. “Rather, the crux of plaintiffs’ claim is that the location of in-person absentee voting in Jackson County interacts with the socioeconomic factors of poverty and lack of access to transportation to deprive plaintiffs and other Native Americans who would like to vote absentee in-person – particularly at the time of registration -of an equal opportunity to vote.”
Full Article: Courthouse News Service.