Know Your Rights: organizations in Rapid City helping people, who can, register to vote

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Voting disenfranchisement has been an ongoing issue long before and after the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The law was enacted to end the discriminatory voting practices in the United States, with hopes of ending voting disenfranchisement.

But problems with disenfranchisement still exist, even in 2020.

To register or actually cast a ballot, voter identification in the form of a driver’s license, or another form of valid I.D. is required by law. This is the case for 34 states in the U.S., including South Dakota. For the lower-income population even buying stamps and envelopes to mail-in registrations or absentee ballots can be an added barrier to voting.

Within Pennington County and Rapid City there are organizations working to engage and register voters, regardless of party affiliation.

“Voting should be easily accessible to everyone that is eligible,” says Adam Jorgensen of the ACLU South Dakota. “Those barriers should definitely be eliminated. Anyone that wants their voice to be heard at the ballot box should be able to do that.”

Hippie Haven, a retail shop on Main Street, will be providing voter registration guidance and resources until September 18, when absentee voting begins in South Dakota. They are providing stamps, envelopes, absentee registration forms and registration forms, along with reading materials about voting rights.

“A lot of people maybe don’t or aren’t able to download the papers online so we really have all the information you need to register to vote,” says Chesca Cedillo, store manager.

Hippie Haven has partnered with South Dakota’s American Civil Liberties Union to provide the resources to groups that are historically disenfranchised such as immigrants, Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+ Two Spirit communities and students, according to the ACLU.

Students travelling away from their home state may not understand the need to register absentee should they not be returning home for elections, November 3. They may also not have access to a personal printer to send in their forms. Even holding a valid I.D. can prove a challenge to students.

Western Dakota Tech works with students, prior to registering for classes, to ensure they are eligible for financial aid. Student governments at WDT and South Dakota School of Mines & Technology may even organize voter registration and ballot drives to increase student civic engagement. Dates for those events have not been announced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Not everyone that comes to Western Dakota Tech lives in Rapid City,” says WDT President, Dr. Ann Bolman. “It’s very easy for students to be disenfranchised if they don’t think ahead.”

Pennington County GOP is located on Kansas City Street in downtown. Open seven days a week, they are willing to help anyone register to vote. During the Central States Fair they hosted a voter registration booth but with little traffic.

“Sometimes people feel really powerless,” says Pennington County GOP Chair, Jeff Holbrook. “The vote gives them the chance to exercise, what I think, is the true power of a constitutional republic.”

For those that can print and mail voter registration forms, visit HERE.

To apply as a precinct worker on Election Day, call your local auditor’s office. September 1 is National Poll Worker Recruitment Day!

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News