Indian voter fraud claims linger after election
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South Dakota's top law enforcer is largely rejecting Republican allegations that voter fraud on Indian reservations contributed to Democrat Senator Tim Johnson's slim victory more than a month ago.

Attorney general Mark Barnett and his office have reviewed 50 affidavits submitted by Republican lawyers but only plan to investigate one case. It concerns alleged payment of $10 to Indian voters on the day of the November 5 election.

Barnett, a Republican, has repeatedly said the outcome of the election is not in doubt. Thanks to a record turnout on reservations in the state, Johnson sailed to a narrow 524-vote win over challenger John Thune.

Thune conceded the race, which prevented the Republicans from expanding their narrow majority in the Senate. But that hasn't stopped his party and conservative news organizations, including the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, from casting doubt on one of the closely-watched campaigns of the year.

In an article published yesterday, the conservative National Review renewed the charges. It alleges that "big-city" Democrat lawyers were dispatched to South Dakota on the guises of protecting voters.

"But there is compelling evidence to suggest that at least some of the lawyers did just the opposite," the article states. "According to the testimony of dozens of South Dakotans who worked at the polls, the out-of-state attorneys engaged in illegal electioneering, pressured poll workers to accept questionable ballots, and forced polling places in a heavily Democratic area to stay open for an hour past their previously-announced closing time."

Some of the persons quoted are described as poll-watchers though their party affiliation is identified as Republican. The attorneys who generated the affidavits Barnett reviewed were out-of-state Republicans.

The article quotes from one affidavit: "I was promised $10 if I would go vote. . . . I voted at a precinct located in Mission, South Dakota. . . . When [the driver] dropped me off, he offered me $10 for voting." It goes on to describe two others that allege vote payment.

After the election, Johnson praised the turnout in Indian Country. "The whole world is talking about the Native vote in South Dakota," he said during a press call with the Indian media.

But he said there was no foundation to the voter fraud claims that have been investigated by Barnett. "No one found any evidence of voter fraud during this time. . . South Dakota has law abiding Indians and non-Indians throughout our state," he said.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the outgoing majority leader, wrote a critical letter to the Journal after its editorial page mentioned the affidavits that were reviewed. "Your attack on the Oglala Sioux voters in South Dakota offers a sterling example of what minorities in this country can expect from hard-right editorial politics," he wrote on November 20.

The paper on November 14 suggested that Democrats won the seat in a "highly suspicious, if not crooked, fashion."

One man has been arrested in connection with the probe. Another woman is expected to be arrested for alleged forgery of ballot documents.

Indian voters overwhelmingly chose Johnson on election day. Johnson took 92 percent of the vote on the Pine Ridge Reservation, 81 percent of on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation and 75 percent on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.

National Review Story:
Excerpts: Bad Indian votes in S.D. (12/10)

Related Stories:
S.D. AG disputes Wall Street Journal (11/21)
Editorial: The Indian Vote in S.D. (11/20)
Letters: The Indians fought back (11/20)
Editorial: The South Dakota Indian Vote(11/20)
Editorials: The power of the Indian vote (11/18)
Narrow Johnson win in S.D. confirmed (11/13)
Indian voter turnout in S.D. was high (11/8)
Indian votes helped Johnson (11/7)
S.D. Indian vote was challenged (11/7)
S.D. Senate race 'too close to call' (11/6)
S.D. woman 'traced' signatures on forms (11/1)
No illegal ballots found in S.D. (10/31)
S.D. election night proposal questioned (10/30)
S.D. woman fights voter fraud charges (10/29)
S.D. voter fraud tied to one person (10/25)
Charges fly in S.D. Indian voter dispute (10/24)
Opinion: Don't let illiterate Indians vote (10/23)
All eyes on South Dakota for votes (10/22)
Charges of Indian voter fraud denied (10/18)
Editorial: Investigate voter fraud (10/18)
S.D. voter fraud probe continues (10/17)
'More and more' cases of voter fraud (10/16)
Thune: S.D. vote challenge not my idea (10/16)
Problems cited with Indian voter drive (10/15)
Native voters said key in S.D. races (09/02)
Sioux tribal members file voting rights suit (08/06)