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Pondera County adds satellite election office in Heart Butte

After lawsuit, Pondera County adds satellite election office in Heart Butte
Posted at 10:46 AM, Oct 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-18 12:46:46-04

Starting on Monday, another satellite election office will be open on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. It comes after several Native American rights groups sued Pondera County over what they said was a lack of access to voting for tribal members.

The new office will be located at Heart Butte High School, and will be available to voters in Pondera County. It will be open every Monday until election day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will also be open on Election Day, which is Tuesday, November 3.

Pondera County agreed to establish the satellite election office just three days after the Native American Voting Rights Fund and the Montana American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in U.S. District Court in Billings. The groups claimed the county was disenfranchising Native American voters during this year's election. The nearest satellite election office to the Blackfeet Reservation was located in Conrad, about 80 miles away.

Native American voters lack access to local mail service, and many are unable to travel long distances, due to disproportionate poverty rates. The groups claimed these circumstances were a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Montana Constitution. Jacqueline De Leon, an attorney for the Native American Rights Fund, said the news was a victory for the Blackfeet Nation.

"I hope that what it shows is that the Native Americans are equally entitled to participate in the elections," she told MTN News. "If they are being denied that opportunity, we will absolutely fight for them."

For more information, you can go visit the organization's website.