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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Monday, June 28, 2004

Conflicting stories about voting process in South Dakota

In today's web edition of Indian country today, David Melmer reports conflicting accounts of the June 01, 2004, special and primary elections, in South Dakota.
Bret Healy, executive director of the non-profit Get Out the Vote organization said that lawsuits would be filed in all three federal districts in South Dakota.
"For the legislature to do what they did in 2003 was unconscionable to make it more difficult for Native Americans to vote. The practical effect of the law was vivid on June 1," Healy said.
The voter photo ID requirement was passed by the state legislature in 2003. An argument used by opponents of the new law claim that because the American Indian vote was so instrumental in re-electing Democrat Tim Johnson, the Republican-led legislature passed the new rules.

Complaints came from across the state, many from reservations and some from Rapid City, where there is a large American Indian population.

"We have demonstrated evidence of many people turned away at the polls who had no photo ID. The big picture is that Native American voters were turned away at the polls. They [Republicans and critics] had better come up with a better argument then that to keep voters from voting," Healy said.

Danielle Black Fox, Standing Rock tribal member, said she witnessed several voters at a precinct in McLaughlin, S.D. turned away for not having photo ID, one she said did not return. Her affidavit stated that poll official Dorothy Weist, Butte Precinct, required a photo ID and did not allow affidavits.

Bruce Whalen, an Oglala Republican is quoted as having a different perspective on the voting process on June, 01.

\Whalen said he witnessed people challenging the photo ID law, but didn’t see anyone turned away. He saw a person who left the building to retrieve his photo ID from the car. A Four Directions person complained that that person was denied the right to vote - which was not the case, Whalen said.

Whalen also said there are three doors used to leave or enter the building and all were open with people coming and going the entire day. "It was more of a social event, it didn’t appear to be a purposeful vote," Whalen said. He added that from what he saw everyone was accommodated.

Whalen was watching the polls in Billy Mills hall.

Reports from Billy Mills hall, to Colorado AIM members, were that,indeed , would be voters were turned away from the booths. Those without state issued IDs were supposed to have the option of using tribal ID's and added to a provisional roll. It was reported that several people were told, by poll supervisors, that they had to have a state issued ID in order to vote. Others were told to call a Hot Springs office and speak with officials there, when they were not able to produce State issued IDs but attempted to use their Tribal IDs.

We also know of another poll watcher, in a different South Dakota County, who filed several reports about individuals who were denied the right to vote in the elections.

According to a witness at Billy Mills Hall, a Washington D.C attorney who was supposed to be monitoring the voting process in Billy Mills Hall, instead, spent most of the day sitting inside Big Bat's station across the street. Sitting in Big Bats for a whole day is quite an achievement. Big Bats has a deli, newspapers and a television, but is that really more interesting than what was happening across the street? It could be that one of the locals was able to mesmerize her with tales of personal exploits...for an entire day no less. Whatever the case, it might be a good idea to send someone else in her place this November.


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