Opinion: Oglala Sioux Tribe secures voting rights for members
"Opponents of holding a full-scale election on the Oglala Sioux Tribe's Pine Ridge Indian Reservation this fall held on as long as possible during a recent confrontation with hopeful voters. The encounter took place Sept. 24 -- a sunny day in the Black Hills, where the cliffs are studded with rose quartz and tourmaline, the deer and the antelope play, and buffalo graze in pine-rimmed meadows.

There was a sense of urgency as chairperson Connie Whirlwind Horse called to order a meeting of the five-member commission of Pine Ridge's Shannon County. Early voting had been underway in South Dakota for a week -- except in the reservation county. Present in the small courthouse were, on one side, recalcitrant local and state officials, including the head election official, secretary of state Chris Nelson. He'd been pushing just mail-in ballots for the county since a local political spat caused the off-reservation election official to threaten to resign from her reservation duties. The threat lasted three weeks: enough to prevent establishment of Pine Ridge polling places and render even mail-in voting questionable.

On the other side, supporting a bona fide election, were tribal president Theresa Two Bulls, voting-rights advocate O.J. Semans, and U.S. Department of Justice and ACLU lawyers, among others. One of the state's senators, Tim Johnson, and its congresswoman, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, both Democrats, sent representatives. (For the controversy's origins, see this post.)

Two commissioners, one white and one Native, quickly staked out a strong position: Shannon County couldn't afford as much voting as the rest of the state. The nation's poorest county was destitute, and Help America Vote Act funds were out of reach. South Dakota reimburses election costs in December, and counties that can't front the cash are out of luck."

Get the Story:
Stephanie Woodard: South Dakota Election Standoff: Oglala Sioux Win Voting Rights -- For Now (The Huffington Post 10/4)

Also Today:
Operations Analysis: The Battle of Fall River (Indian Country Today 10/4)

Related Stories:
Native Sun News: Disenfranchisement looming for Indian voters (9/22)
Opinion: Indian voting rights at risk in South Dakota county feud (9/21)
Editorial: Racial issues affecting county's business in South Dakota (9/10)
Oglala Sioux county commissioners face lawsuit over sheriff fight (8/26)