A federal judge ruled Thursday that the South Dakota Secretary of State’s Office is not following federal laws requiring state agencies to make it easier to register to vote.
Judge Lawrence Piersol, of the United States District Court for the District of South Dakota, issued a wide-ranging opinion that sided with two South Dakota tribes, the Rosebud Sioux and the Oglala Sioux.
The tribes brought suit in 2020, arguing that the Secretary of State’s Office was not adequately addressing federal law. The National Voter Registration Act requires state agencies to help voters register to vote when they interact with government agencies for other services.
For example, voter registration opportunities must be provided under the act when people apply for drivers’ licenses, or apply for public assistance. When a person submits a change-of-address form for a driver’s license, the act provides that it should also serve as a change of address for voter registrations, at least when it comes to federal elections.
Licensing and public benefits are under the auspices of the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Social Services. Piersol found that the Secretary of State’s Office was not providing enough oversight to ensure those offices were fulfilling their responsibility under the act.
Piersol also found that the Department of Public Safety was responsible for transmitting voter registrations to the county auditor, but numerous errors were stopping that process from happening. Piersol also ruled that when the Department of Public Safety contracts with other government agencies to provide licensing services, the department is still obligated to comply with federal voter registration requirements. Such so-called “issue sites” include the office in Dupree, South Dakota in the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation.
You can find the court’s order at this link.