Judge won't dismiss Indian voting rights case in South Dakota

Thomas Poor Bear. Photo by Native Sun News

A federal judge has refused to dismiss an Indian voting rights lawsuit in South Dakota.

Thomas Poor Bear, the vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. The complaint seeks the creation of a satellite voter registration office on the Pine Ridge Reservation.

"Specifically, because in-person voter registration and in-person absentee voting are limited to the county seat of Kadok, Native American residents of Jackson County are required to travel, on average, approximately twice as far (and such travel takes approximately twice as much time) to take advantage of in-person registration and in-person absentee voting in comparison to white residents of Jackson County," the complaint states.

The Jackson County defendants filed a motion to dismiss the case but Judge Karen Schreier denied the request. She said the plaintiffs have raised genuine issues that need to be resolved.

The Department of Justice submitted a "statement of interest" in the case to object to the county's motion to dismiss. "Native American citizens residing in Jackson County face significantly greater burdens and have substantially less opportunity than white citizens with respect to casting in-person absentee ballots and using in-person voter registration," the filing stated.

Native Americans represent 51.5 percent of the population in the county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. About 57 percent of the county's acreage lies within reservation boundaries, according to Wikipedia.

Turtle Talk has posted documents from the case, Poor Bear v. Jackson County.

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Court Says Sioux Voting Rights Suit Will Proceed (Courthouse News Service 5/5)

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