Sioux Tribes Sue South Dakota Over Failure to Provide Voter Registration

(AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

(CN) — Two South Dakota Sioux tribes partnered with a voting rights group to bring a federal lawsuit against the state on Wednesday, claiming multiple agencies failed to offer voter registration services.

The Rosebud and Oglala Sioux tribes claim that the state violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to provide opportunities to register voters and update voters’ registration information at motor vehicle agencies as well as public assistance offices. 

The tribes claim it is the duty of these state agencies to provide services to “citizens who engage in common interactions with the offices.”

“Because of these violations of the NVRA, South Dakota is depriving thousands of tribal members and other citizens of their federally guaranteed opportunities to register to vote and to change their voter registration addresses when these citizens interact with state agencies,” the 42-page complaint states.

Passed in 1993, the NVRA, also known as the Motor Voter Law, sought to increase the number of eligible citizens who can register to vote in elections for federal office. 

According to the complaint, the tribes claim numerous South Dakota agencies violated multiple sections of the NVRA in which the state is required to provide assistance at motor vehicle and assistance offices.

Four Directions Inc., a voting rights and advocacy group, joined the tribes in their lawsuit against South Dakota’s Department of Public Safety, Department of Social Services, and Department of Labor and Regulation with Secretary of State Steve Barnett also named as a defendant. 

“The South Dakota Driver License/I.D. Card Application fails to indicate that a change of address for driver’s license purposes will automatically update the address for voter registration purposes unless the customer opts out,” The tribe claims. “However, in violation of Section 5 (NVRA), the Secretary of State does not consistently use this information to update voter registration records.” 

According to the complaint, the secretary of state only updates a voter’s registration record to reflect a new address when the voter takes “affirmative steps” to register to vote or update voting information. 

The Secretary of State’s office did not immediately respond for comment.

%d bloggers like this: