On May 20, 2020, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, and Four Directions, a nonprofit voter engagement group, sent a notice letter to South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Bennet informing him that the state’s public assistance agencies and motor vehicle offices are regularly failing to provide voter registration services to individuals engaging in application, renewal, recertification, or change-of-address transactions, in violation of Sections 5 and 7 of the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”).
The letter points to a dramatic drop in voter registration applications collected by public assistance agencies during the past several years, and to evidence collected during a field investigation in South Dakota which confirmed serious breakdowns in the voter registration procedures these agencies are required to follow under the NVRA. It also describes noncompliance with requirements for “motor-voter” registration through drivers’ license offices, including the failure of motor vehicle offices to automatically update individuals’ voter registration addresses when they report a change of address to the motor vehicle agency.
Demos is working with the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) in this case. NARF represents the Native American tribes, while Demos represents Four Directions, an organization that works extensively to promote voter engagement in Indian Country.
The letter notes that the NVRA permits the plaintiffs to initiate litigation within 20 days if the state does not immediately move to remedy these violations.