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It's Crunch Time in South Dakota | The Nation

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Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt

Politics, feminism, culture, books and daily life.

It's Crunch Time in South Dakota

Election Day is around the corner, so if you still have two dimes to rub together, you have just a few days to send them where they can still do good on November 4. I'm sending mine to Women Run! South Dakota. This is the umbrella organization for progressive pro-choice Native American women running for the state legislature: among them, Charon Asetoyer, Faith Spotted Eagle, Theresa Spry, Diane Long Fox Kastner, and incumbent Senator Theresa Two Bulls (the first, and so far only, Native American woman elected to the State Senate,now running for a third term). These are community organizers (take that, Sarah Palin!) with deep local roots, long-time activists on women's health, domestic violence, native american rights, and poverty issues. They would bring progressive grassroots leadership to a state where women currrently make up only 16% of the state legislature (and only four of those women are pro-choice), Native americans have long had trouble exercising their right to vote, and where not coincidentally, rightwing politics, including repeated attempts to make abortion a crime, have been the rule for far too long.

Here's WomenRun's Laura Ross on the situation on the ground:

"Last week the smart and delightful Lonna Stevens of Wellstone Action and Wellstone Native Leadership was good enough to fly over and do a few nonpartisan Native voter engagement trainings with me in SD. We were at Kyle one day (near Pine Ridge), Rapid City the next and finally at Lower Brule, smack on the gorgeous Missouri River. Organize organize organize! All was good. Voter reg is way up this cycle and everybody eager to learn how they can do more. It was great to have so many Native students at the trainings right next to candidates and others who've been community leaders for so long. ...

"Things are rolling on the Initiated Measure 11 battle, which would ban nearly all abortions in SD and set up a legal challenge to Roe. The other day a reporter from Pierre wrote about the many legal shortcomings of IM 11 and said, Well, if it goes down then the next legislature can address them and either pass a new ban or send it back to the voters again. Indeed. We've known for some time now here at WR!SD, that it matters who is sitting in the state legislature shaping the laws affecting reproductive freedoms and health, education and environmental policy. We know there will be more bills seeking to limit women's access to good repro health and that, yes, if the ban fails they'll just bring it back to the legislators again. Its hard work to be there fighting off these bills, I've been there, but if our candidates were to win in 10 short days from now we know they'd have our backs at the next legislative session. Maybe IM 11 will go down but like Dracula will arise again in the halls of the Capitol in January and this time we'll have reinforcements, we hope!

"As I noted earlier we're focusing hard on organizing efforts for Early Vote/GOTV and am especially concerned about that vast District 21 where we have two candidates, Charon and Diane. There is little to no money for GOTV in SD this cycle so we're scrambling to do what we can with very little. Very little. In District 21 our candidates are counting on voters in the 3 First Nations (Lakota/Dakota/Ihanktonwan) within its borders to help bring it all home. Last cycle WR!SD was able to help in a big way with gas and food for those working to get out the vote but it seems most money is floating up this year and we're left darned short for this enormous task. The people we need to reach simply do not have the resources - many are happy to help with time and efforts, if they had a tank or two of gas, but many times folks struggle to get to the polls at all and count on GOTV workers to get them there. Voter suppression and poverty are real players in elections here - in part why the ACLU has sued 9 times in 9 years over the Voting Rights Act - to help level the playing field. One person one vote is harder to achieve than it sounds, it takes vigorous organizing and election protection. And we need those votes. We're doing all we can but need help with Early Vote and Get Out the Vote in Indian Country. Theresa Spry still needs some help with GOTV, too, and is working hard to make do with what she's got but I'd hate to see her lose that Rapid City district by a skinny again for lack of a bit of gas $$, you know? She would be the first Dem to hold that Senate seat in many years!"

The WomenRun! website is down as I write -- keep checking it for updates and information. Meanwhile, you can donate to WomenRun!, and to individual pro-choice South Dakotan women candidates, at their Actblue page.

Don't let lack of gas money keep these fine candidates out of the state house!

UPDATE: Donate $50 or more to WomenRun! and I will gladly send you a signed copy of Learning to Drive, my collection of personal essays, just out in paperback. Just send the receipt and your address to me through letters@thenation.com and I'll pop the book in the mail.

More update: The WomenRun! website is up -- with the latest news on the candidates, the SD electoral scene, and a donation button to make your giving hassle-free.

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