Tribal voters on the Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservations do not have increased access to early voting options this election season despite the settlement of a federal lawsuit that should have made it possible. Two of the three tribes affected by the settlement didn’t send a letter to the counties indicating what tribal building and room would be offered for the service by the Aug. 1 deadline. Northern Cheyenne tribal member Mark Wandering Medicine, along with 11 other Indian plaintiffs, in February 2013 sued Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and county elections officials in Blaine, Rosebud and Big Horn counties, alleging the defendants violated portions of the federal Voting Rights Act, which “prohibit voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color or membership in one of the language minority groups.” The plaintiffs argued their rights to equal access to voting were violated when McCulloch and county elections officials refused to set up satellite voting offices on remote Indian reservations in advance of the November 2012 presidential election.
The plaintiffs claimed tribal members living on the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap reservations are at a voting disadvantage compared to non-Indian voters in Rosebud, Blaine and Big Horn counties because voters living on the reservations didn’t have as easy access to late voter registration, early voting and in-person absentee voting.
Those services are only provided at elections offices located in the county seat, which are located long distances from core tribal population centers.
The two sides in June settled the lawsuit out of court with an agreement that the counties would move their election administration offices from the county seats to tribal buildings at Fort Belknap Agency, Crow Agency and Lame Deer for two days a week during the month leading up Election Day.
Full Article: Tribes miss increased early voting access opportunity.