This election season, South Dakota is starting to implement voting-access reforms, in light of a recent settlement with tribes.
Advocates hope there’s proper follow-through, as Mike Moen reports.
In the settlement announced last month, the state agreed to designate a voting-rights coordinator, to ensure statewide compliance by agencies through mandatory training and monitoring.
It’s the result of a court ruling this spring that said the state violated the National Voter Registration Act.
Bret Healy of the Native American advocacy group Four Directions says the situation deserves scrutiny.
“The unfortunate thing is, even when things get won in court, there’s always recidivism, it seems to be, by public officials.”
He points to South Dakota’s long history of involvement in similar cases.
The latest one centered around lack of opportunities to register to vote at motor-vehicle and public-assistance offices near tribal lands.
The Secretary of State says a key change since then includes updated forms at driver’s license locations.
Other key reforms will be addressed after the November vote.
Healy stresses that restricting voting access for Native Americans is still a problem in many states.
His organization is assisting with a new lawsuit over voting opportunities for a tribe in northeastern Nevada.
“It is not a new story, but it’s an unfortunate one. We need to make sure that everybody’s got a shot at granting that ‘consent to be governed’ at the election ballot box.”
As for the South Dakota case, the state has until early December to show that core reforms have been implemented.
The Secretary of State says they’ve identified a person to be voting rights coordinator and are making preparations for the role to begin.
A new ABC drama premiered Thursday “Alaska Daily,” set at an Alaska newspaper.
It stars Hilary Swank as a hard-charging investigative reporter, fresh from New York City, but quick to see that her new state has far too many cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
The series is fiction, loosely based on the Anchorage Daily News.
KTOO’s Rhonda McBride talked with two Alaska Native writers, who have worked on the show.
The common thread between Andrew MacLean and Vera Starbard: a desire to tell authentically Alaskan stories.
“Overall, I really hope people see in this, in some way, the Alaska that I love.”
Vera Starbard is a Lingít playwright, whose career took off when she was tapped to write episodes for the PBS hit children’s series “Molly from Denali”.
Her writing partner Andrew MacLean (Inupiat) is known for his award-winning 2011 film “On the Ice.”
And even though he’s familiar with making movies, MacLean says nothing prepared him for a TV series like this.
“Somebody compared it to building a train hurtling down a track and I think that’s kind of right.”
Even as the show premieres, MacLean and Starbard are hard at work on upcoming episodes for the season that are yet to be shot.
“It’s literally hour-by-hour, you don’t totally know what you’re going to be doing –so you might show up and think you’re going to work on Episode 9. And in fact, there’s an urgent thing they need to figure out for Episode 5 that they’re shooting right now, so we need to address that. You’re sort of figuring out what you’re doing as it comes.”
For the past few months, both Starbard and MacLean have been sequestered in what they call “The Writing Room” in downtown New York City, where they work with producers and writers they describe as some of the best in the business. But even so, it hasn’t been easy to teach them about Alaska.
“So many different communities. So many different peoples and tribes and ethnicities. And so many different lived realities. It can be overwhelming. It probably causes us to lose the most sleep. Vera: I was literally about to say, loose the most sleep over, yes.”
Maclean says millions of people will watch this show.
“And that’s a powerful thing. A powerful opportunity to educate and a powerful opportunity just to reach out and tell our stories in a truthful and authentic way.”
“I have such a strong belief — and it’s so much of the reason that I do the work that I do — that Alaska Native people have amazing, wonderful, beautiful, extraordinary things to give to the world,” added Starbard.
And that includes a sense of humor. Just before she left New York City to return home, the crew gave her a card with a word in Lingít.
“And it just says júk on it, which means ‘Go away’ in Lingít. I taught them too much.”
Vera Starbard finds it ironic that to tell stories about Alaska, she had to go all the way to New York City, where she was asked to treat the state as more than just a backdrop, but a character in its own right.
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