South Dakota NVRA Violations
Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. Barnett
Lawsuit filed on behalf of two Native American tribes, a voting rights organization and individual Native American voters alleging that South Dakota is violating the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) by failing to provide voter registration opportunities at state agencies. Under the “motor voter provisions” of the NVRA, states are required to provide voter registration services when an individual undertakes certain transactions (such as obtaining a new driver’s license or applying for public assistance) at motor vehicle and public assistance offices. The plaintiffs argue that South Dakota has failed to offer these voter information and registration opportunities at required agencies and, as a result, registration rates have significantly declined in recent years. The lawsuit asks the court to order South Dakota to comply with all NVRA provisions.
Following the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, the court ruled that South Dakota failed to properly implement and comply with the NVRA in numerous ways. For instance, the judge found that election officials didn’t offer voter registration options at certain mandated locations nor during covered transactions and failed to adequately train employees on registration requirements. Although the court’s ruling is largely favorable to the plaintiffs and to the voting rights of South Dakota’s citizens, the case is not yet over. On Sept. 6, the parties reached a settlement agreement which addressed the plaintiffs outstanding claims and set forth numerous measures that will be undertaken by the secretary of state along with state agencies to ensure compliance with Sections 5 and 7 of the NVRA.