Voting can be dangerous in South Dakota if you’re Indian. In a state with only 764,309 people, and some 64,000 Indians (about 8.5 percent of the state’s population), the Indian vote counts. On June 1, 2004, Indian were reminded of that, when Indians strong armed other Indians at the polls.
Democrats won a special election to fill former governor Bill Janklow’s vacated Congressional House seat. Stephanie Herseth beat Republican Larry Diedrich by 2, 826 votes. Herseth got 51 percent, and Diedrich got 49 percent.
But how exactly did the Democrats win? “The Indian vote,” liberals brag, along with the women’s vote. (Just what Indian warriors like to hear: we’re the same as women.) There are approximately 16,000 Indian voters in South Dakota, mostly Democrats.
But what if an Indian might want to vote differently? Rough goings at the polls, so the liberals themselves complain. But who’s intimidating whom?
Ask Oglala Sioux Indian, Bruce Whalen, who is Shannon County Republican Party Chairman and Poll Watcher for the Pine Ridge Agency. Shannon County, which includes Pine Ridge, has an American Indian population more than 94 percent, so Whalen’s observations are critical.
Whalen watched polls at Pine Ridge Village, the largest community of voters, with three precincts. Whalen is an elected, Republican official, but local Indian papers never asked him for any reports.
In an unpublished letter to the editor (originally sent to Tim Giago, editor of Lakota Journal, June 11), made available to me personally, Whalen cites two incidents of “non-Republican get-out-the-vote workers attempting to fight other people in the polling place.” He notes “non-Republican workers sat directly at precinct election tables giving the appearance of confusing or intimidating voters.” They even escorted voters through the voting process, “even to the point of entering the election booth with the voter!”
It’s all “anti-Indian” voter harassment, according to leftist Ruth Steinberger, well known activist for Indians in the Dakotas. She thinks white people in the Dakotas just don’t want Indians to vote. The implication is that Republicans are doing all the intimidating, because most of the Indians that do make it to the polls vote Democrat. Steinberger’s reports, unlike Whalen’s, do get published in the Lakota Journal or other Indian papers like Native Times, or on activist websites.
The fact that Democrat Indians would harass other Indians who might be voting Republican is not welcome news in Indian media. Democrat Indians aren’t interested in eyewitness reports like Whalen’s. Such reports will never be published in the Indian papers. Only the Democrat complaints are reported when it’s Indian against Indian.
Indians are supposed to present an ID before voting, but affidavits are acceptable at the polls. Shannon Country reported some 300 affidavits used in lieu of photo IDs. Yet the New York Times dramatize a single instance of an elderly woman illegally turned away because she didn’t produce an ID. This is the NYT’s triumphant evidence of overwhelming frustration among Indian voters, and they call on the Democrats to save the Indians.
Senator Tom Daschle’s voting registration initiative is stated in amazingly neutral language, assigning no blame to either party, or even to Indians in general. It’s a masterpiece of political jargon, perfectly PC (not mentioning the word “Indian”) and yet strongly implying that 1) for Daschle to win against John Thune in the next election, Daschle has to secure every Indian vote possible; therefore, 2) the problem of voter obstacles or intimidation simply has to be caused by Republicans.
Of course, the Republicans already cried “fraud” back in the 2002 senate elections, accusing Democrats of impropriety, but the Indian media and activists vehemently condemned them for daring to accuse the Democrats of foul play and picking on one poor Indian woman (Rebecca Red Earth), who worked for the Democratic Party, registering Indian voters. Democrats never do anything wrong. They are the victims, and therefore they have the moral high ground.
Democrat Stephanie Heresth grabbed that high ground in South Dakota this 2004 election, being elected to the state’s vacant at-large seat. She scooped up all the Indian votes she could get. Indeed, the White Woman Savior rides again, at presumptive speed. Indians seemed dazzled, and fell at her feet.
Indians vote Democratic if left alone – so say the Democrats. Hence, Democrats accuse the Republicans of not wanting Indians to vote, and if anything goes wrong at the polls in South Dakota, it’s the Republicans’ fault. But recent roughhouse tactics against Indians show just who the bullies are at Indian polling places.