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2018-02-08 / Voices

Plenty Of Work Left Before Elections

BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
OGLALA LAKOTA

We are now less than ten months away from what could potentially be one of the most important election seasons of our lifetime. Yet, Lakota people will once again be forced to encounter a plethora of difficulties to cast a ballot.

While this is an obvious injustice, tribal-nations have been forced to operate within the American political system from a disadvantaged position since its inception. This is not news. This is part of the indigenous experience in this country. In South Dakota many of the Jim Crow laws that existed in the deep south have simply been rebranded and reworded.

This election season our people will be forced to travel great distances to vote. They will only have a few options of where they can.

Combatting an unfair system is something that Lakota people are accustomed to. While it does get old dealing with decades old efforts to quiet our voices, the solution to our problems lies in our willingness to be proactive.

As legislative bodies, tribal governments have the option to pass laws that allow for our people to remove some of the hassle that comes with casting a ballot. An hour of admin leave on election day could help, extra transit routes to and from the polls could be temporarily instituted, and informational campaigns about the official positions of tribal government will be important to combat the political rhetoric. There has even been a push to make Election Day a holiday.

For many years we have seen the numbers of Lakota people voting in elections remain low. That turnout is even more dismal when a presidential election is not taking place that year. This is one of those election cycles where Native people have historically not shown up to vote. That cannot happen this year. There are several candidates currently in both the congressional and gubernatorial races that have already established a history of anti-Indian positions.

LCT is prepared to do our part to educate Lakota Country about the people who are running for office in South Dakota. The scandals that have ensnared so many state officials over the last couple of years were covered heavily by our paper as attempts were made to scape-goat Lakota people for these crimes. You will still hear our competitors and state officials refer to this mess as the GEAR UP scandal, but the fact remains that none of the money that was stolen came from the program. The people who are still attempting to prosecute our people for crimes committed by state officials are vying to represent us in elected office.

There are barriers in place designed to prevent Lakota people from voting. Those barriers can be erased or severely broken down by collaborative efforts between tribal governments and the Native media. Our institutions have the ability to be force multipliers for each other. It is up to us if we want to come together to do the work.

All voters who appear at a polling place must show proof of identification (SDCL12-18-6.1). Approved forms of photo identification include:

• South Dakota driver’s license or nondriver ID card

• U.S. government photo ID (passport is acceptable)

• U.S. Armed Forces ID

• Current student photo identification card from a South Dakota high school or South Dakota accredited institution of higher education

• Tribal photo ID

If you do not have a photo ID, you can sign a personal identification affidavit, and will still be allowed to vote a regular ballot.

*Brandon Ecoffey is the editor of LCT and an award-winning journalist who was born and raised on the Oglala Lakota Nation. He earned his education at Dartmouth College and founded Bad Face Consulting in 2016.

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