The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal judge in South Dakota to not dismiss a lawsuit that tribal members filed against Jackson County in which they claim the county doesn’t give equal voting access to Native American voters. After the November election, the county’s attorneys filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier in Sioux Falls to toss the case arguing that the lawsuit does not contain proof that the county disenfranchised Native Americans — a protected class under the Voting Rights Act. But the federal agency believes the complaint shows otherwise.
The lawsuit was filed about two months before the election by four members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who are residents of Wanblee, a town of 725 people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The plaintiffs argue that the county’s practice of offering only in-person voter registration and in-person absentee voting at the county courthouse in Kadoka discriminates against Native Americans living in the portion of the county that’s within the reservation.
The lawsuit alleges that Native Americans have to drive twice as far to get to Kadoka as white residents of Jackson County and many factors make the half-hour trip more difficult, the Argus Leader (http://argusne.ws/1xFU9jU ) reported. After the complaint was filed, county officials reversed their initially decision to refuse to open a satellite office for voter registration and early voting in Wanblee, but the change didn’t end the legal battle.