MINNEWAUKAN The Spirit Lake Reservation will be the only reservation in North Dakota without an on-reservation polling site this election.
Benson County Auditor Bonnie Erickson says county commissioners decided to have only one polling site in the county in the upcoming election because they are also offering voting by mail. She said they want to see if voting by mail will increase voter turnout and if it will also save money.
However, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., doesn't think that's right. "That's a disgrace. I remain hopeful the county commissioners will change their mind," said Dorgan.
Early last month Dorgan sent a letter to the Benson County Board of Commissioners asking its members to reverse their decision and restore a polling site on the reservation. So far, he has not received a response from them, Dorgan said.
Erickson said that in past elections the county has had eight polling sites but in the November general election there will be one. She said the reservation was not singled out but other areas in the county also will not have polling sites.
"We'll just have one polling site at the courthouse (in Minnewaukan)," she said.
"Frankly, I think the commissioners would want to make it easier for people to vote," Dorgan said.
Dorgan said Benson County will be the only reservation in the state without a polling site this election. He said it isn't a case of cost because the tribe offered the use of its facilities without cost and to pay for polling workers.
He said the Minnewaukan polling site is 20 miles from the reservation, which will be a 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.
Polling sites are provided by counties at the following locations on other reservations in North Dakota. The information was confirmed by the counties' auditor's offices.
McKenzie County in Mandaree and Four Bears districts.
Mountrail County in New Town and Parshall.
Dunn County in Twin Buttes and Mandaree.
McLean County in White Shield.
TURTLE MOUNTAIN RESERVATION
Rolette County in Belcourt
STANDING ROCK RESERVATION
Sioux County in Porcupine, Cannon Ball, Fort Yates, Solen and Selfridge.
TRENTON INDIAN SERVICE AREA
Williams County in Trenton.