Opinion

Oliver Semans: Native people deserve equal access to voting box





Oliver Semans, the executive director of Four Directions, provides update in Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch, an Indian voting rights case in Montana:
Good citizens of Montana, please tell your secretary of state and the election officials of Rosebud, Blaine and Big Horn counties to stop wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars – eventually maybe millions – fighting Native voting rights!

A federal judge in Billings just chewed out the high-priced lawyer your elected officials hired from South Dakota – calling “vexatious” and “frivolous” attorney Sarah Frankenstein’s latest attempts to fight the voting-rights lawsuit Wandering Medicine v. McCulloch.

In this lawsuit, your fellow citizens on the Northern Cheyenne, Fort Belknap and Crow reservations ask for equal access to early voting and late registration. When this issue was first argued in court in 2012, the secretary of state and county officials stated repeatedly that there wasn’t enough time to set this up. It’s been 14 months, and still no efforts have been made to establish early-voting offices. So much for that excuse.

This is the second public scolding federal judges have administered to Frankenstein in recent months. In October, I was in the courtroom in Portland, Ore., when she brushed off questions from the learned judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as “academic.” I thought I saw steam coming out of their ears. Just kidding. But the judges did say, ominously, “When judges ask questions, it’s not helpful to deflect them,” then ruled against her.

So we’re back to square one, and the meter is ticking for you on those top-dollar billable hours.

Get the Story:
Oliver J. Semans: Native Americans deserve equal access to voting (The Missoulian 2/19)