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Who Called the Sheriff? Pine Ridge Voter Turnout Plummets, then Rebounds

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Versions of this article appeared in November 2014 on billmoyers.com and Indian Country Today Media Network (ictmn.com), with additional photographs of Pine Ridge and the election by Jesse Short Bull.

“Voters walking into the polling place would see the sheriff there and veer off,” said Donna Semans, the Rosebud Sioux field coordinator for Four Directions voting-rights group. “If I was driving them to the polls, they’d spot the sheriff’s vehicle out front and tell me, ‘No way. I’m not going in there.’”
Semans runs Four Directions’ get-out-the-vote, or GOTV, operation on the Oglala Sioux Tribe’s Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota. Since mid-October, her team has transported voters from around the 2.1-million acre reservation to a polling place in Pine Ridge Village. There they can register and cast a no-excuse absentee ballot ahead of Election Day.
Then one day, the county sheriff showed up in the voting office, and the moccasin telegraph started working overtime. Tribal membe…