Twenty-five Native Americans will not have to pay court costs related to their voting-rights lawsuit against the state and Fall River and Shannon counties, a federal judge ruled. The 25 plaintiffs from the Pine Ridge reservation sued in January 2012 to ensure they would get an in-person absentee voting station in Shannon County for the full period allotted by state law. In previous elections, in-person early voting was available only on a limited basis. After the lawsuit was filed, Secretary of State Jason Gant and local officials agreed to provide in-person absentee voting stations in both Shannon and Todd counties. Both counties do not have a courthouse, and the agreement would provide the early absentee voting stations through the 2018 election.
U.S. District Court Judge Karen Schreier dismissed the lawsuit last month because the state had agreed to provide the voting stations and the plaintiffs had received the relief they wanted, at least through 2018. Schreier noted that election laws could change between now and 2018, and the issue no longer was legally ripe.
After the dismissal, Sara Frankenstein, a lawyer who represented the counties, filed a motion to collect $6,328 in court costs against the plaintiffs. Schreier this week rejected the request, saying it was the defendants’ fault the lawsuit was ever filed.
“Under the facts of this case,” she wrote, “it would be unjust to require plaintiffs to pay defendants’ costs. Defendants refused to provide plaintiffs with the relief they requested until this lawsuit was filed.”