facebook app symbol  twitter  linkedin  instagram 1

South Dakota voters will benefit from a court settlement reached between state officials and two tribal nations that resolves a lawsuit challenging the state’s numerous violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

The NVRA was passed in 1993 with a number of goals, including “to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for Federal office.” 

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

In August 2021, The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Oglala Sioux Tribe, Lakota People’s Law Project, and individual voters filed a lawsuit in district court alleging that the state was failing to uphold portions of the law, particularly a mandate for driver’s license offices and public assistance agencies to provide voter registration services to their clients during applications, renewals and change of address requests.

In May 2022, the United States District Court of South Dakota ruled that the states did indeed commit several NVRA violations, leading to the recent settlement.

 “The settlement we negotiated details changes that South Dakota must make to provide the voter registration services guaranteed to each and every voter by federal law,” Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Scott Herman said in a statement to the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). NARF negotiated the terms of the settlement on the plaintiffs’ behalf.

Never miss Indian Country’s biggest stories and breaking news. Sign up to get our reporting sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning. 

The settlement calls for The Secretary of State to designate a statewide NVRA coordinator responsible for ensuring, monitoring, and overseeing compliance with the law. It also establishes training for state department employees to implement the law and requires the State of South Dakota to reimburse plaintiffs $625,000 for attorney fees.

“Ignorance will no longer be an excuse in South Dakota as the agreement specifies the state must create guidance, ensure accurate training materials, and actually train state agency staff on Motor-Voter responsibilities,” Hoksila White Mountain, one of the individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said in a statement.

White Mountain said she witnessed Native people disproportionately turned away on election day in 2020 because local offices had not properly registered them to vote.

More Stories Like This

Biden Nominates Salish & Kootenai Tribal Attorney Danna Jackson for Federal Bench
A Conversation With Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan: What We Can Celebrate Around the State
Return to the Heart Foundation Gives 44 Micro-Grants to Native Women Leaders
Indigenous Journalists Association President Addresses Members of the UNPFII
Inter-Tribal Council Passes Resolution Urging FCC to Establish Specific Event Code for Missing and Endangered Persons

Native Perspective.  Native Voices.  Native News. 

We launched Native News Online because the mainstream media often overlooks news that is important is Native people. We believe that everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities. That's why the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers.  We hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount — big or small — gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous-centered journalism. Thank you.

About The Author
Jenna Kunze
Author: Jenna KunzeEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Senior Reporter
Jenna Kunze is a staff reporter covering Indian health, the environment and breaking news for Native News Online. She is also the lead reporter on stories related to Indian boarding schools and repatriation. Her bylines have appeared in The Arctic Sounder, High Country News, Indian Country Today, Tribal Business News, Smithsonian Magazine, Elle and Anchorage Daily News. Kunze is based in New York.