BILLINGS — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to settle a voting rights case in which American Indians in Montana sued to establish satellite voting offices on three reservations.
Residents of Fort Belknap and other Indian reservations say the offices are needed to make up for the long distances they must drive to reach county courthouses for early voting or late registration.
At Fort Belknap, they say, people living in remote Lodge Pole have to go to Chinook to register to vote.
After a now-retired judge declined to intervene before the 2012 election, the 16 Indian plaintiffs appealed.
A three-judge appeals panel wrote in a Wednesday opinion that the emergency injunction request by the Indians is now moot. They sent the case back to U.S. District Court in Montana for a decision on future elections.
The U.S. Justice Department has sided with the plaintiffs against officials in Rosebud, Big Horn and Blaine counties.