Bill amendment would allow tribal IDs for voter registration
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Bill amendment would allow tribal IDs for voter registration

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South Dakota Capitol Building in Pierre.

PIERRE | A Republican lawmaker on Wednesday proposed a bill amendment that would add tribal IDs to the list of documents that can be used to register to vote in South Dakota — a measure aimed at encouraging registration in communities with low voter turnout.

The measure came after House Republicans shot down a similar proposal from Democrats last week.

Rep. Tamara St. John, a Republican from Sisseton and a member of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, on Wednesday said tribal IDs should be allowed for registration as long as the secretary of state's office has verified the information on voter registration forms, in agreement with the tribe that issued the ID.

The Democratic proposal last week did not require any such memorandum of understanding between individual tribes and the secretary of state. Republicans argued that it would have threatened the security of voter registration.

In the 2018 general election, tribal communities reported some of the lowest voter turnout figures in the state. Native Americans make up 9% of the state's total population.

St. John said the bill strikes a balance between keeping the tribes sovereign and making it easier for people to register to vote.

Tribes in South Dakota have enhanced the security and information on IDs in recent years, adding dates of birth, addresses and holographics. The IDs can be used to go through security at airports and to verify identity at voting booths.

St. John pushed for a Senate committee to amend a bill that would allow people to use state IDs other than driver's licenses to register to vote. The House passed that bill last week, but without the language allowing tribal IDs.

The amendment was unanimously approved by the Senate committee, but the committee did not have enough time to vote on the bill. If the bill is approved, it will be considered by the full Senate. The amended bill would then head back to the House for a vote.

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