Justice Department Announces Agreement Protecting the Rights of Lakota-Speaking Voters in Shannon County, S.D.
WASHINGTON — The Justice Department announced today an agreement with Shannon County, S.D., to ensure compliance with provisions of the Voting Rights Act that require the county to provide election materials and information in Lakota to Lakota-speaking American Indian voters, and to ensure compliance with certain provisions of the Help America Vote Act.
"The right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, and language barriers should never keep citizens from accessing that right," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. "Today’s agreement ensures that Shannon County’s Lakota-speaking citizens will have access to the election process and will be able to cast an effective ballot. Shannon County should be congratulated for resolving the issue in a cooperative manner."
The chairperson of the Shannon County Board of County Commissioners, Connie Whirlwind Horse, stated that "we have taken this opportunity to work with the federal government and the state to make voting better for the people of Shannon County." Four of the five Shannon County commissioners are members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe.
The agreement with Shannon County provides for a comprehensive Lakota language assistance program for American Indian voters, including trained bilingual election officials to be available at all polling places in the County. Further, the agreement provides that each polling place will have in place an operational voting system that provides accessibility for minority language voters through a Lakota audio ballot as well as accessibility to voters with disabilities, as required by Section 301 of the Help America Vote Act. The agreement also ensures that polling places will consistently post voting information and provide provisional ballots and written information on how a voter can check whether a provisional ballot was counted, as required by Section 302(a) of the Help America Vote Act.
The Voting Rights Act requires that jurisdictions determined by the Census Bureau to have a substantial population of minority-language citizens, such as Shannon County, provide voting materials and assistance in the minority language as well as in English. The Help America Vote Act requires that voting information be publicly posted in polling locations and that otherwise qualified voters whose names do not appear on registration lists are provided a provisional ballot as well as written information on how to determine whether the provisional ballot was counted. The Help America Vote Act further requires that each polling place have an operational voting system that provides minority language accessibility, where required, as well as accessibility for voters with disabilities. Enforcement of the protections of the Voting Rights Act and the Help America Vote Act are a significant priority for the Civil Rights Division.
To file complaints about discriminatory voting practices, voters may call the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931. More information about the Voting Rights Act and other federal voting rights laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/voting/index.htm.