A 120-mile round trip separates voters in Lame Deer from voting early and registering late, and Lame Deer is among the closest places on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to Forsyth, the seat of Rosebud County. But the asphalt on Montana Highway 39 is just one way to measure the distance. “This journey has geographical and historical distances,” said Tom Rodgers, a tribal issues activist, member of the Blackfeet Nation and Jack Abramoff whistleblower. As South Carolina debates Confederate symbols, Rodgers thinks of symbols in Montana that also tell a story. “Names matter. History matters,” he said. “We have a county seat named after a man who was horribly anti-Native American, a man who killed 300 men, women and children at Wounded Knee. The fact that it hasn’t been remedied is wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Maj. Gen. Forsyth, namesake of the Rosebud County seat, led the 7th U.S. Cavalry into Sioux Country, where they massacred a village. The county clerk is Geraldine Custer, another last name rich in meaning in Indian Country, especially to the Northern Cheyenne. Another general is represented in Rosebud County Commissioner Robert E. Lee.
Rodgers is part of a team that worked on a voting rights case that has inspired legislation brought forth in the spring by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Native American Voting Rights Act, proposed by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., as well as Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Al Franken, D-Minn.
That act could influence the 2016 election, especially in the West. It would require each state to establish polling locations on reservations upon request from the tribe, including early voting locations in states that allow votes to be cast prior to Election Day. The bill also directs state election administrators to mail absentee ballots to the homes of all registered voters if requested by the tribe.
Full Article: Montana voting rights case inspires national legislation.