Jackson County officials have agreed to open a satellite office for voter registration and early voting in Wanblee.
Last month, four members of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation filed a federal lawsuit claiming it is hardship for Native Americans living in Jackson County to drive to Kadoka to vote by absentee ballot and to register to vote.
The agreement resolved the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction ordering the county to open the satellite office. The legal case, however, remains open, according to a news release from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.
“This resolves the immediate issues,” said Matt Rappold of Winner, the South Dakota attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
Rappold said the county qualifies for Help America Vote Act funding, which can be used to reimburse the county for the cost of a satellite office. Those funds are distributed through the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.
Jackson County Auditor Vicki Wilson did not return calls Thursday.
The satellite office will open Monday, Oct. 20, at the Crazy Horse School. The office will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday through Nov. 3.
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The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 4 general election is Monday, Oct. 20. Absentee ballots can be cast until Nov. 3, according to the news release.
Led by the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Vice President Tom Poor Bear, the plaintiffs say that Jackson County’s practice of offering only in-person voter registration and in-person absentee voting at the county courthouse in Kadoka discriminates against Native Americans living in the portion of Jackson County that is within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The county’s population is roughly half Native American and half white. The plaintiffs say it takes twice as long for Native American voters to travel to Kadoka as it does white voters. Over 90 percent of Kadoka’s population is white, according to the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, Dewey County officials and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe worked together to open a satellite in-person voter-registration and absentee-voting office in Eagle Butte, according to Auditor Kyri Lemburg.
The office opened Thursday, Lemburg said, adding that Kevin Keckler, the tribal chairman, made the request this week.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe provides office space and pays the deputy working in the satellite office, Lemburg said.
The office will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and will close on Oct. 31.