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Federal Lawsuit filed on October 10th:  Montana Tribes Demanding Equal Access to Early Voting.

By Theron “Scarlet Raven” Thompson, Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota (Sioux)

In the 2006 race for United States Senate, Democrat Jon Tester credited his win over republican incumbent Conrad Burns to the Native vote in Montana, winning the election by a razor thin 3,562 votes.  In that mid-term election over 17,000 votes within the reservation counties propelled Tester to a U.S. senate win by earning over 75% of the vote.  

In one example of the potential of this community to swing an election, in Blackfeet Reservation 2,461 voters turned out, 83 percent of them voting in favor of Tester.        Demos.org   
             

The 83% figures equals:  Jon Tester 2,042 and Conrad Burns 419 a difference of 1,623 votes!

A 2008 Frontline story, Paying Attention to the Native American Vote (November 4, 2008), stated that Native Americans vote Democrat nationally in the 90-95% range.

Fast forward to the 2012 Montana race and you see a similar situation to what happened in Pennsylvania and Ohio to limit access to the polls for strong democratic (large minority population) districts.   You can see the same voter suppression happening in Montana of epic proportions, trying to displace the 6.4% population of Native Americans.

On October 10, 2012, 10, members of three Montana Tribes – Northern, Cheyenne, Crow, and Gros Ventre & Assiniboine – filed a voting rights lawsuit in federal court in Billings.  One defendant is Montana’s head election official, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch.  The other 13 are commissioners and election officers of Rosebud, Big Horn and Blaine counties, which overlap the three tribes’ reservations, respectively, and handle their non-tribal elections.

The Tribal members are suing because the officials do not plan to provide the three reservations with satellite offices for early voting, which got underway in Montana on October 9 and runs through election day.  The 16 plaintiffs say this violates rights protected by the United States and Montana constitutions and the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  All three counties named have lost or settled VRA suits.  Today’s failure to provide satellite and early voting reinforces a “history of racial discrimination in voting” the suit said.
Indian Country Today, Stephanie Woodward, Oct 12, 2012

Looking at the situation in Montana where many of the Native Americans on the reservation have to drive 100 miles or more roundtrip to vote early in this pivotal U.S. Senate race is key to letting their voice be heard.  Why should the Native Americans of Montana reservations only have one day to vote (election day)?  This is a violation of the VRA that is disenfranchising Native American voters in Montana and creating an opportunity for republican U.S. Senate candidate Dennis Rehberg to win the U.S. senate because of the State limiting the access to early voting.

Link to article about lawsuit:  http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/...

Republicans in the State are saying that “outside agitators” are the reason for this suit being brought forward, not taking responsibility for doing what is right, which is providing equal access to all residents/citizens of Montana.  I have a hard time understanding the rationale for the State of Montana to put party before politics and limit the Native Americans from voting?  Yes, Native Americans vote Democrat by a 75% to 25% edge, but instead of trying to keep them from voting, they should try and earn their support!

I think we all have to stand up and assist the first Americans on their quest to participate equally in American democracy.  Native Americans were the last to receive the vote (1924) and many States continued to limit their right to vote up until 1975 where South Dakota fought Native voter rights in Todd, Shannon and Washabaugh (now Millette)Counties on the (Rosebud and Pine Ridge Indian Reservations).  Other States such as Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington prohibited “Indians not-taxed” from Voting (demos.org).

Bloggers of the World unite and get the message out about the voter suppression happening on America’s first people’s and share this blog and garner support to fight the Civil and Voter Rights violations happening in Montana and elsewhere.

Please Recommend, Share, Tweet and get the word out on this strongly contested race in Montana.  This story should be on top of the Ed Show and Rachel Maddow Show.  The attorney representing the Tribes is a good friend and a strong advocate for Indian Country.

Originally posted to scarletraven on Mon Oct 15, 2012 at 02:38 PM PDT.

Also republished by Native American Netroots, Invisible People, and Barriers and Bridges.

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