The ability to vote is one of the basic rights every American citizen can claim as his or her own. It is a right, which through years of protest and activism, has become not only a hallmark of democracy but of equality. The right to vote, and the ability to do so, represents the most basic element of a government in which the people have the ability to govern themselves. Yet today across the country, and especially here in Montana, American Indians are being denied their rights to basic voting practices that are common among other populations. Currently, there is a suit that has been appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The lawsuit is fighting for the installation of satellite voting centers on every reservation in Montana. Representatives of the Northern Cheyenne, Crow and Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribes filed the suit in 2012 when the state denied a request to install satellite voting offices on several reservations.
Satellite voting offices allow for early voting, a practice that increases voter access and enables people who are unable to get to the polls on election day to still cast a vote.
Historically, there have been many barriers to American Indian civil rights, and while many of those barriers are no longer legally in place, there are plenty of contemporary barriers to equal access for the American Indian. In the matter of late registration and early voting, Montana voters can begin late registration 30 days before an election and drop off absentee ballots at county offices.