When the U.S. Supreme Court used Shelby County v. Holder to kick Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) back to Congress for a new look at who is still struggling to get to the ballot box, certain things did not change for South Dakota Indians. If they want equal access to voting in any given election cycle, they must request it, pay for it and/or go to court to litigate for it. The Supreme Court decision immediately cut loose two South Dakota counties, Shannon and Todd, which overlap the Pine Ridge and Rosebud reservations, respectively. Officials there no longer have to “preclear” changes in voting laws and procedures with the Department of Justice and prove they’re not discriminatory.
Reaction around the state to the decision was swift. Attorney General Marty Jackley called it a “victory for state’s rights” and proclaimed “the Court found that conditions that originally justified placing jurisdictions under preclearance requirements no longer existed.”
State senator Jim Bradford (D-District 27/Pine Ridge), who is Oglala, expressed regret over the decision. South Dakota has a long history of disenfranchising and discriminating against Native people; the state and jurisdictions within it have fought and either lost or settled some 20 voting-rights cases. “Preclearance kept them on their toes,” Bradford said.