Posted: Oct 12, 2012 8:38 AM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
Multiple Montana tribes have filed a federal lawsuit against the Secretary of State and several counties in Montana. Members of the Crow, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne Reservations claim tribal members living on reservations do not have equal access to early voting.
The 15 plaintiffs are requesting Blaine, Big Horn and Rosebud counties set up satellite offices for this year and future general elections. Satellite offices would give reservation citizens a place closer to home to conduct in-person absentee voting and late voter registration.
Today county officials and the secretary of state were served with a summons. OJ Semans, Executive Director of Four Directions, a voting rights group from the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, said the Secretary of State was first contacted about the request for satellite offices back in February of this year. The offices would be based in Fort Belknap, Lame Deer and Crow Agency.
Semans said one of the plaintiffs has to drive 192 miles from his home in Lame Deer to reach the Rosebud County Elections Office. He said not having satellite offices is forcing reservation residents to drive far in order to participate in a democracy.
The plaintiffs are waiting for a response from the defendants. Semans said if they are denied an injunction, the plaintiffs will file an appeal in 9th Circuit Court.