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South Dakota’s Republican Party and Midterm Voter Suppression

Voter suppression is defined by Britannica as, "any legal or extralegal measure or strategy whose purpose or practical effect is to reduce voting, or registering to vote, by members of a targeted racial group, political party, or religious community."

Historically, voter suppression is associated with Black Republicans who controlled Southern states following the civil war, when the Democratic backed Klu Klux Klan used terrorism to suppress Republican votes. The original RINO (Republican in Name Only), President Elect Rutherford B. Hayes struck a deal to end reconstruction and institute Jim Crow laws, in exchange for Democratic support of the contested election of 1870. In modern day South Dakota however, voter suppression is coming from the Republican party, aimed at keeping conservatives out of the party.

State-wide candidates report driving hundreds of miles, through the night at times, just to make the next campaign event. Certain candidates however, are being made to work overtime, while their challengers are given preferential treatment.

The Dakota Leader has found out that certain candidates are being silenced, hidden from voters by the press and broadcasters, relegated to the end of candidate events, not given a platform to debate their opponent, or not given time to speak at all.

Bruce Whalen, Taffy Howard, Steve Haugaard, and Monae Johnson are four of these candidates, currently being suppressed as they run for the State's top offices. During a primary, incumbents are beholden to the same rules as challengers, and by law, each must be given equal access to the voters and ballot.

Bruce Whalen, working to primary
U.S Senator John Thune this election, is running a historically significant campaign. If elected, Whalen would be the only Native American to represent indigenous peoples in Washington DC.

During a time when the country is demanding more equity, diversity, inclusion and representation of oppressed peoples, Whalen has largely found himself silenced and ignored by South Dakota's Republican party. Whalen has also found himself to be
completely ignored by the media, despite FCC rules regarding equal air time.

Taffy Howard is a currently elected Representative in South Dakota's State legislature. Like Whalen, Howard is running against a privileged, white, cis male, and again,
virtually invisible in South Dakota's MSM. Johnson, meanwhile, is constantly in the press.

Most recently, the South Dakota Board of Regents launched its
“Higher Education Marketing Campaign” directly ahead of the election, featuring Dusty Johnson. Voters driving the stretch of I29 through Sioux Falls, have seen Dusty Johnson portrayed on large Billboards, boasting where he went to college.

Monae Johnson, is likewise running against South Dakota dynasty member and current Secretary of State, Steve Barnett. Barnett hails from a powerful, and wealthy Aberdeen family that even has an event center named after their name sake, at Northern State University.

Given the recent
image and optic issues of the GOP, one would imagine the party would hail these heroes of diversity. Instead, The South Dakota Republican establishment appears to be working overtime to pretend they don't exist.

At a recent event, hosted by Congressman, and former South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds, Howard, Haugaard and Whalen were slated to speak. Instead, Rounds turned the microphone over to incumbent John Thune, Whalen's primary opponent. Thune was allowed to speak for as long as he wanted, while others were treated as second class citizens. According to attendees, the conservative challengers were given a set of strict rules and limits, governing speaking time.

Various attendees wrote to The Dakota Leader after the event, shocked at what occurred. Beyond the unfair treatment of the primary challengers, attendees described to The Dakota Leader, what appeared to be a planned hijacking of the event by incubents. Rather than yield back, it's reported that Thune proceeded to turn the microphone over to Gov. Kristi Noem, who similarly monopolized on time, just before calling up "the rockstar," Congressman Dusty Johnson.

The Dakota Leader reached out to Gov. Noem's spokesperson Ian Fury about the event, asking for a statement related to the Governor's actions and clear bias.

"It has come to the attention of The Dakota Leader that an event was recently held where Gov. Kristi Noem introduced Congressman Dusty Johnson to a room of voters as "The Rock Star," and out of turn. It is our understanding that his primary opponent, Rep. Taffy Howard (R-Rapid City) was in attendance during this event, and was made to wait her turn to speak, while time limitations still applied."

Fury responded to The Dakota Leader's request with the following, "please direct all campaign related inquiries to Chris Hupke."

Hupke was not responsive to The Dakota Leader. Nor was Hupke responsive to a recent inquiry from Journalist Joe Sneve of the Argus Leader.
Sneve's article in The Argus Leader outlines similar concerns regarding the Governor's preferential treatment of candidates, along with her active involvement in this year's election cycle.

The event coordinator reportedly apologized to Haugaard, Howard, and Whalen. According to an insider, the event coordinator also claimed no knowledge of the planned take over of the event.

However, at a recent luncheon, constituents report that Gov. Kristi Noem and Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden showed up unannounced. During the luncheon, Representative and Gubernatorial candidate Steve Haugaard was speaking, when Noem stood up and interjected, again taking over the microphone.

On May 14, 2022, the Pennington County Republican party is set to host their Lincoln Day Dinner.
Outrage was sparked, after the board of the Pennington County Republican Party voted to only allow incumbents speaking time during the event.

It's possible that these events are unrelated and merely coincidence, but when voters only hear from one candidate the effect is a form voter suppression as full informed consent and access to candidate information results in reduced voting. And then there's the financial aspect of the situation.

According to the
GOP rules, section 11, under "Candidate Support"

"The Republican National Committee shall not, without the prior written and filed approval of all members of the Republican National Committee from the state involved, contribute money or in-kind aid to any candidate for any public or party office of that state, except the nominee of the Republican Party or a candidate who is unopposed in the Republican primary after the filing deadline for that office."

It's well known by the state party that Gov. Kristi Noem has a republican challenger in Steve Haugaard, and yet she's still received about
80,000 thousand dollars from various state republican parties this election. North Carolina, Texas and Kansas republican parties have donated to Noem’s 2022 Gubernatorial PAC, despite being members of the Republican National Committee. As the Argus Leader article points out, Noem and Schoenbeck appear to be teaming up, in order to rid South Dakota of conservative voices. Voices, that Sen. Schoenbeck derided as "whackadoodles," in a recent debate hosted by the Watertown Chamber of Commerce, where Schoenbeck alluded to being in lockstep with the Governor.

According to leaders such as
Professor Thomas Sowell, and former California Gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder, this type of viewpoint discrimination and voter suppression of conservatives, is hitting critical mass.

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--Breeauna Sagdal- Health and Policy Journalist for The Dakota Leader

Post Date: 2022-05-05 10:48:33Last Update: 2022-05-06 22:34:09


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