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'Someone threw my file out': County officials on Standing Rock Reservation lose legal description of voting precincts

SIOUX COUNTY, N.D. — A Native voting rights group is raising questions about a lack of documentation to support voting precincts in Sioux County, home to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Four Directions, whose mission is to promote equality at the ballot box in Indian Country, attempted to get the legal boundary definitions for precincts in Sioux County.

Sioux County Auditor Barb Hettich said the county had the legal descriptions for the six precincts when the boundaries were approved. But Hettich said she doesn’t have the legal descriptions now “because someone threw my file out,” adding she’s had seven secretaries in four years.

Hettich said she is using a county highway map with the precinct boundaries highlighted.

“This year, they’re just going to have to follow the maps,” she said.

The Secretary of State’s office does not have the legal descriptions of the precinct boundaries. Secretary of State Al Jaeger said it’s the responsibility of the counties to set the precinct boundaries and maintain the records.

“There’s no reason for us to have that record, that’s something that’s decided at the county level,” Jaeger said.

Bret Healy, a consultant with Four Directions, said it’s “more than a little ridiculous” for the state to require stricter identification requirements for voters while not maintaining legal boundaries for voting precincts.

Tribal members are working to get the necessary identification to vote in Tuesday’s election to comply with a state law that requires IDs with residential street addresses, something many who live on reservations don't have.

“The state is claiming they need to have a valid address for these Native American voters. They don’t even have valid precincts in Sioux County,” Healy said. “You’re demanding a higher level from each individual voter than you are of the state itself.”

Four Directions wrote in a letter to Jaeger that the organization is developing a fail-safe addressing system for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and wishes to use the exact legal precinct maps.

Jaeger said the county knows what the addresses are within those precincts.

Josh Boschee, who is challenging Jaeger for secretary of state, said, if elected, he would work to make sure counties are in compliance with the law.

“If the secretary of state is so concerned about making sure people are voting in the right precincts, why isn’t he making sure the counties are in compliance with that?” Boschee said.

Sioux County is the only North Dakota county that is made up entirely of an Indian reservation. The Standing Rock Sioux Reservation also extends into South Dakota.

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