Indian Country 52 #44 – Restricted Voting
““Voters walking into the polling place would see the sheriff there and veer off,” said Donna Semans, the Rosebud Sioux field coordinator for Four Directions voting-rights group. “If I was driving them to the polls, they’d spot the sheriff’s vehicle out front and tell me, ‘No way. I’m not going in there.’”
Semans runs Four Directions’ get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, operation on the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. Since mid-October, her team has transported voters from around the 2.1-million acre reservation to a polling place in Pine Ridge Village. There they can register and cast a no-excuse absentee ballot ahead of Election Day.
Then one day, the county sheriff showed up in the voting office, and the moccasin telegraph started working overtime. Tribal members warned each other that casting a ballot might be a way to get arrested. “Word spread like a grass fire,” said Semans. The number of people wanting rides to the election office dropped from more than 100 a day into the teens.
In a cellphone photo snapped by GOTV coordinator Donna Semans on October 20, county sheriff Jim Daggett is seen in the doorway of an early-voting polling place on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. (Courtesy Donna Semans)In a cellphone photo snapped by GOTV coordinator Donna Semans on October 20, county sheriff Jim Daggett is seen in the doorway of an early-voting polling place on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. (Courtesy Donna Semans)
Were the concerns farfetched? Not at all, said OJ Semans, Donna’s father and co-director of Four Directions. “To us, there’s a lot of history behind the sight of a white man in a uniform. In South Dakota, the disparity between Native and non-Native incarceration rates is extreme. It’s like the Old South, except it’s happening in the 21st century. And don’t forget the Wounded Knee massacre, which happened near Pine Ridge Village.””
– Indian Country Today, Who Called the Sheriff? Pine Ridge Voter Turnout Plummets, Then Rebounds.
Download the 18″x24″ poster (.pdf), Indian Country 52 #44 – Restricted Voting (South Dakota).
Indian Country 52
Indian Country 52 is a weekly project by David Bernie that uses the medium of graphic design by creating posters that promote issues and stories in Indian Country.
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