WASHINGTON, D.C. — Last Thursday, May 26, a federal judge ruled that South Dakota had violated multiple provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by failing to provide adequate voter registration services. Enacted in 1993, the NVRA mandates voter registration requirements for federal elections in order to increase voter registration opportunities and access. Among other provisions, the NVRA requires states to provide certain voter registration options at state motor vehicle agencies and public assistance offices.
Two Native American tribes, a voting rights organization and individual Native American voters sued the state and its election officials in September 2020 alleging that the state didn’t offer voter registration options at motor vehicle agencies or state-run public assistance offices as required by the NVRA, causing particular harm to Native American communities. In the ruling delivered last week, the judge agreed with the plaintiffs that South Dakota has not been complying with the NVRA in various ways. Among multiple violations, the judge found that election officials didn’t offer voter registration options at certain mandated locations or during covered transactions and failed to adequately train employees on registration requirements. This is a win for the plaintiffs and voters of South Dakota who previously had to face unnecessary and illegal hurdles simply to register to vote. However, the case is not over yet as there are still remaining claims left in the lawsuit that will move forward.