The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will soon decide whether American Indians in rural Montana were wrongly denied on-reservation satellite voting offices that the plaintiffs say are needed to make up for the long distances they must drive to reach county courthouses. Attorneys representing tribal members and the U.S. Justice Department on Thursday told judges in Portland that a federal judge used the wrong legal standard when he denied a request to establish satellite election offices on three reservations. The attorneys said U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull overlooked the fact that some Indians are denied equal access to voting because they can’t afford to travel up to 150 miles to county courthouses. Cebull since has retired after forwarding an email with a racist joke about President Barack Obama. Montanans can vote by mail with early absentee ballots or by delivering ballots in person to county offices; late registration begins at county offices a month before Election Day.
Cebull ruled there was no evidence that Indians were being prevented from voting for the candidates of their choice.
Plaintiffs say that while some Indian candidates have been elected, other tribal members living on remote reservations still are disadvantaged because they lack access to late registration or early voting.
Native Americans “are still fighting for equal opportunity to participate in the political process,” said attorney David Olsen, who represents 15 Indian plaintiffs from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations. Indians once were denied the vote outright.
Full Article: Lawyers: Wrong standard used in Indian voting case.