Sioux tribal members file voting rights suit
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Four members of the Sioux Nation filed suit against South Dakota on Monday, charging the state with massive violations of Native voting rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a spate of lawsuits for Sioux tribal members in recent months, said the state has made changes to more than 600 election laws since 1972 without proper authorization. A federal judge was asked to intervene -- potentially halting upcoming primaries -- until the Department of Justice can review how they affect Native voters.

"We are a proud people and all we seek is an opportunity to have a voice," said lead plaintiff Elaine Quick Bear Quiver, a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe.

According to the ACLU, most of the laws do not appear to harm voters in two predominantly-Native counties. Shannon County is located within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation, home to the Oglala Lakota Tribe, and has a 94.2 percent Native population. Todd County encompasses the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, with 85.6 percent of the population being Native.

But at least 12 changes were discriminatory "on their face," the complaint stated. According to the ACLU, Secretary of State Joyce Hazeltine only sought approval last Friday.

"The state's last-minute submission is so inadequate that we see it as another attempt to avoid actual compliance with federal law," said ACLU attorney Bryan Sells.

The plaintiffs also tied the changes to historic discrimination against Sioux tribal members. They cited a 1977 opinion by then-attorney general Bill Janklow which advised the state not to seek federal review as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Janklow is currently the state's governor. Barred by term limits to seek re-election, he is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The defendants in the case include Hazeltine and two state officials. Hazeltine accused the ACLU of making filing a "totally unnecessary" lawsuit.

"The ACLU knew that my office filed 380 pages of election laws last week on Thursday with the U.S. Department of Justice for review, yet the ACLU proceeded to file the suit anyway and to top it off issued a news release containing a deliberate falsehood claiming we had filed only a one-page memo," she said.

The plaintiffs include Quick Bear Quiver; Teresa Two Bulls, vice president of the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe; Vernon Schmidt, vice president of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe; and Alfred Bone Shirt, a Rosebud tribal member.

The ACLU filed a separate lawsuit against the state for its 2001 legislative redistricting plan. A federal judge earlier this year ruled that the state failed to obtain DOJ approval before implementation.

Relevant Documents:
Complaint: Elaine Quick Bear Quiver v. Hazeltine (8/5)

Relevant Links:
South Dakota Secretary of State -

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