The Fort Belknap Indian Community in Montana is considering taking legal action against Blaine County and the Secretary of State of Montana for failing to provide equal access to the right to vote for tribal members, according to the tribe’s president. Fort Belknap Indian Community President Mark Azure said the tribe has retained the services of Timothy Purdon and Brendan Johnson of Robins Kaplan – the former attorneys general of North Dakota and South Dakota, respectively – and Bryan Sells, who was previously working in civil rights at the U.S. Department of Justice before starting his own law practice. “We have made multiple requests of Blaine County officials for equal access to in-person late registration and absentee balloting on the Fort Belknap Reservation going back to August 2014,” Azure said.
Azure said Blaine County officials have refused to establish a satellite office on the reservation, which would provide equal access for Election Day registration, late registration and absentee balloting. Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has also not used her authority to establish equal access, according to Azure.
In a statement, Secretary of State McCulloch said she issued a directive in October of last year to eight counties with American Indian reservations and spoke with President Azure before the directive was sent out. “Eight counties have committed to opening nine satellite offices on American Indian reservations, after working with tribal governments on the logistics of those offices,” she said in the statement. “Blaine County has made a written offer to open a satellite office on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, and we are confident that they can come to an agreement to serve American Indian voters.”