Kristen Inbody at the Great Falls Tribune reports:

The basis for the legislation came from Montana, where in 2012 plaintiffs from the Crow, Northern Cheyenne and Fort Belknap Indian reservations sued Secretary of State Linda McCulloch and the elections offices in Blaine, Rosebud and Big Horn counties, arguing Indians did not have the same voting opportunities—in violation of the National Voting Rights Act.

“From Browning, Montana, where we started three years ago, we had to sue to prevail and now that case has been the basis for the most far-reaching empowerment of Native Americans since we got the right to vote in 1924,” [Blackfeet tribal activist Tom] Rodgers said.

That case was brought by Mark Wandering Medicine (Northern Cheyenne) and 11 other plaintiffs who sought to force the Montana secretary of state and three counties to set up satellite polling locations on reservations making it easier to vote for Indians in remote areas. The case was settled, with the counties agreeing to set up the satellite locations and keep them open two days a week for Indians to register late and cast absentee ballots in person. But only one of the counties—Big Horn—actually did so.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, a Democrat, could fix this.

In a March 2014 order in the case, Judge Donald Molloy of the U.S. District Court in Missoula wrote: “The Secretary had, and has, the ability to issue a directive telling the counties that they must establish satellite voting offices for in-person absentee voting and late voter registration. If a directive had been issued, it would have been binding on election administrators and they would have had to take the directed action.”

“In Montana, you’ve got a situation where a federal judge has laid out authority and McCulloch could make it so,” he said. “Local officials don’t seem to be moved by our arguments, and unless they’ve been directed to do so, they won’t. It’s unfortunately the history of voting in general for minorities. The folks who have power don’t go out of their way to open access to the ballot box. Inertia is a powerful force.”

William "Snuffy" Main, former tribal chairman of the A'aninin and Nakota on the Fort Belknap reservation—and a board member of the Lakota-led voting rights group Four Directions—says what Indians have known for a long time across a wide range of issues, not just voting: officials always seem to be looking for loopholes.
“They find every obstacle they can to prevent it rather than supporting it,” he said. “They’re willing to spend a lot of money to prevent making it easier for Indians to vote.” Bret Healy, a voting rights activist and consultant for Four Directions, told Inbody:
An “ancestral Democrat,” Healy said he didn’t expect Wandering Medicine to be such a difficult case in Montana with two of the three counties led by Democrats, a Democratic secretary of state and the Democratic party platform calling for engagement with Indian Country.

“I was shocked at the resistance. We’re used to having knock-down-drag-out fights in Republican South Dakota,” he said. “Folks don’t want to change.”

Link to original article from DailyKos