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Senate Panel Backs Plan For Future Efforts To Boost Voter Turnout in Native Communities

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Correction: This article has been updated with language clarifying that this bill has been hoghoused, or changed, from the original goals of the legislation. The bill was changed in committee to only require interagency collaboration - not specific policies. 

The Senate State Affairs Committee passes a bill that mandates collaboration between the Secretary of State's office, the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, counties, and tribes to work together to increase access to voting. The interagency work would occur in off-election years. 

Senator Troy Heinart (D-Mission) is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 76. Heinart says the goal of the bill is to get more South Dakotans to the polls. One potential plan is to allow tribal identification cards as a form of voter registration so long as they meet state requirements.  Heinart says not every tribal ID has the same information. 

"Some of them have a social security number on them - some of them don't. They all have their tribal enrollment number which is unique each tribe. My tribal ID has my enrollment number but doesn't carry my social security number. When we started visiting with the Secretary of State's office, we didn't want there to be confusion when you registered to vote and people putting down their tribal enrollment number instead of their social security number - which is required on our form," Heinart says.

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs says a driver's license number or the last four digits of the person's social security number is currently used for voter registration.

She says state systems are not currently equipped to accept tribal ID numbers. Krebs says her department will cooperate with the State Department of Tribal Relations in order to add social security numbers to ID cards. 

No opponents testified against the amended measure designed to require interagency collaboration. Senate State Affairs sends the bill to the full chamber on an 8-0 vote with one member excused.