Civil rights attorneys from the U.S. Justice Department contend a federal judge wrongly denied a request to establish satellite election offices for American Indians on three Montana reservations. At issue in the case before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are the long distances some Indians in rural areas of the state must travel to reach county courthouses for early voting and late registration. While not as blatant as past discriminatory practices against Indians – who were once denied the vote outright – the difficulties some tribal members face reaching election offices puts them at a disadvantage to white voters, the government and plaintiffs said. In the run-up to last fall’s election, U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sided with state and county election officials who fought the lawsuit seeking new election offices on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap Reservations.
Cebull said there was no evidence that Indians were being prevented from voting for the candidates of their choice, regardless of whether the elections system historically discriminated against them.
Justice Department attorneys say Cebull’s decision was flawed. In a friend-of-the-court brief filed this week, they said the judge overlooked the discrimination suffered by Indians who lack the resources to travel long distances. Just because some Indians are able to vote and elect their fellow Indians to office, the attorneys wrote, other Indians still could face travel difficulties that deny them equal access in the weeks before Election Day.
Full Article: News from The Associated Press.