U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) is urging Benson County to reverse its decision and restore a polling site on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation. Despite concerns from Spirit Lake residents, Benson County officials earlier this month decided to move forward with their plans to not have a polling place on the county's portion of the 495 square mile reservation, which is home to nearly 4,500 Native Americans.
While the County cited cost as the reason for their decision, the Senator rejects that logic, noting that the Tribe has offered the use of its facilities without cost and to pay for any polling workers.
There has traditionally been a polling site on the Spirit Lake Reservation, and last election there were actually three. But this year the County decided the nearest polling location would be in Minnewaukan, making Spirit Lake Reservation the only Indian Reservation in the state without a polling location this election
The Minnewaukan polling site is 20 miles from the Reservation, which will be a big problem for many Spirit Lake residents who do not have reliable transportation and lack access to public transportation to travel off the Reservation to vote.
"I'm extremely disappointed that Benson County decided against restoring a polling site on the Spirit Lake Reservation," Dorgan said. "Their decision will disenfranchise Spirit Lake residents who will have difficulty exercising their right to vote this November because of the County's wrong-headed choice."
"It just seems to me that we ought to make it as convenient as possible for these citizens to cast their vote in an election. That Spirit Lake Reservation will be the only Indian reservation in the State without a polling location this election is just absurd."
In a letter to the Benson County Board of Commissioners earlier this month Dorgan asked that they reverse course and restore a polling site on the Spirit Lake Sioux Indian Reservation on Election Day in November.