An organization that asked Secretary of State Jason Gant and the state Board of Elections to approve three early voting satellite offices in Indian Country filed a complaint Tuesday with the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Four Directions, an advocacy group for Native American voting rights, filed the complaint almost a week after Gant and the Board of Elections declined to establish early voting offices in Fort Thompson, Eagle Butte and Wanblee. The group contends that residents in the predominantly Native American communities don’t have an equal opportunity to vote or register to vote before an election when compared to residents in other parts of the state.
Four Directions spokesman Bret Healy said that many of the residents in those communities don’t have the means of transportation or the financial resources to make round trips to the county courthouses to cast early ballots or register to vote. Round-trip distances to the county courthouses vary from 50 miles to more than 100 miles.
“We’re talking about three of the poorest 10 counties in the United States,” Healy said.
The group asked Gant to approve federal money from the Help America Vote Act to pay for the three satellite offices. The state has about $9 million in HAVA money, and Four Directions estimated the three satellite office would cost less than $50,000 per election cycle.