South Dakota: With absentee voting at record high, poll workers report slow Election Day | Trevor J. Mitchell/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Poll workers all across Sioux Falls had one word to describe the first few hours of voting in Tuesday’s joint election that combined state and county primaries with municipal and school board elections. “Slow.” It wasn’t a surprise, of course. COVID-19 is the reason for the joint election in the first place, and the concerns that combined the two elections still hang over the city even in early June. The Secretary of State’s Office said 86,906 absentee ballots had been cast in the state as of Tuesday morning, after an application for one was sent to every registered South Dakota voter. That’s 69% of the total ballots cast during the 2016 primary. And if it keeps people safe, “slow” isn’t that bad. May Stoll, a poll worker at Carnegie Town Hall who’s been volunteering for the past 30 years, said that on a normal election day at 8:30 a.m., 150 people would have already come through.

South Dakota: Municipal elections, presidential primary could be delayed due to COVID-19 | Bart Pfankuch and Nick Lowrey/South Dakota News Watch

Amid growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, South Dakota lawmakers will consider a bill to postpone upcoming city elections in Sioux Falls, Brookings and other cities at least until June, and to allow Gov. Kristi Noem to delay the presidential primary from June 2 to July 28. The elections bill is one of at least nine last-minute bills related to COVID-19 that lawmakers will consider on the last working day of the 2020 legislative session on Monday, March 30. Among the the other bills proposed on Friday, March 27, labeled Drafts 928-936, are measures that would: speed delivery of unemployment benefits; require treatment of anyone with COVID-19; give the governor, health secretary and counties more authority in the crisis; allow for education standards to be changed; exempt schools from standardized testing; and extend driver’s licensing expiration dates. Lawmakers are expected to discuss and vote on bills remotely by using communication technology that will allow them to take action without gathering in-person in Pierre.

South Dakota: State House bill for online voter registration | Anderley Penwell/KOTA

A State House Bill has been introduced that would allow South Dakota voters to register to vote online. House Bill 1050 is sponsored by the Committee on Local Government at the request of the State Board of Elections. If passed, the county auditors will still be in charge of maintaining voter registration records in their respective counties and any eligible voter with a valid drivers license or state-issued ID card can register to vote through the online system.

South Dakota: Secretary of State Office received another $3 million to beef up election security | KELO

Among the many adjustments the South Dakota Legislature made last month to state government’s current budget was adding $150,000 to the Secretary of State Office’s operational budget. That’s so the office can move ahead with using $3 million from a 2018 federal election security grant that Congress approved, according to Kea Warne. She is deputy secretary for elections for Secretary of State Steve Barnett, who took office in early January. Congress took the action in March 2018 after people from other nations such as Russia tried ways to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Many states including South Dakota still needed approval from their legislatures before channeling the money toward greater election security. “Our office has not spent any of those funds to date, as we asked for the Legislature to provide the five percent match money for the federal grant during the 2019 legislative session,” Warne said. South Dakota’s lawmakers approved that $150,000 request as part of SB 180, which amended the 2019 general-appropriations act for state government. It becomes effective June 28. The 2020 state budget starts July 1, 2019. “Our office has been approved by the federal Election Assistance Commission to spend the full $3 million on new election equipment for the counties,” Warne said.

South Dakota: Lawmakers weigh sending term limit change to voters | Argus Leader

Voters may get to decide whether to change the term limit for South Dakota legislators. Senate Joint Resolution 1, introduced on Wednesday, asks voters in November to amend the South Dakota Constitution to limit legislators to two four-year terms instead of the current limit of four two-year terms. The amendment wouldn’t change the total of eight years that a legislator can serve in the House or Senate. Once legislators reach their term limit, they’ll still be eligible to serve in the other legislative chamber or sit out an election before running again for the same chamber.

South Dakota: Bill aims to fix June election problems | Rapid City Journal

Newly proposed state legislation would implement a safeguard against the voter check-in problems that afflicted Pennington and other counties during last June’s primary election. The legislation is House Bill 1027, which was filed Jan. 6 by the House Committee on Local Government at the request of the state Board of Elections. If passed into law, the bill would require county auditors to provide paper voter-registration lists and bound paper poll books as backups at polling places where electronic poll books are used. The legislation aims to avoid a repeat of the problems that the Secretary of State’s Office said were encountered during the June 5 primary election in Pennington and seven other counties: Brookings, Brown, Hughes, Hyde, Potter, Sully and Yankton.

South Dakota: Software failure mars election night here and in 8 other counties | KOTA

All 44 new electronic poll machines that were supposed to help citizens speed through the check in process at polling precincts failed Tuesday in Pennington County. The massive failure caused major delays in voting — and vote counting. And the glitch hit other counties in the state as well. This election was the first one that the new Electronic Pollbooks were used in every Pennington County precinct. They worked fine during a Rapid City water rate election this year but at 6 a.m. Tuesday election officials knew they had a problem. Poll workers reported that their machines were “timing out” and had to get repeatedly rebooted. They switched to backup paper logs but in 16 precincts the paper logs weren’t on hand and had to be delivered from the County Auditors office.

South Dakota: Election snafus reported statewide | KELO

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs says her office is receiving calls with voters confused about where they vote and what they need to bring for identification for today’s primary. There have also been reports of election glitches in Pennington, Hughes, Brown, and Minnehaha Counties. “You will need to bring with you a photo I.D. card,” Krebs said. “That could be a South Dakota driver’s license, a non-driver I.D. card, a passport, a tribal I.D. card, a current I.D. card issued by a high school or higher education institute of South Dakota.” Krebs is also seeking the GOP nod for U.S. Congress in today’s primary.

South Dakota: Independent Redistricting Initiative Falls Short of Ballot | Associated Press

The campaign for a proposed constitutional amendment that would have taken control of redistricting from state legislators and given it to an independent commission didn’t submit enough valid signatures to put the measure before November voters, South Dakota’s chief elections official said Monday. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’ office said in a statement that a random sampling of signatures collected by Citizens for Fair Elections found that the group turned in about 25,300 valid signatures, not the nearly the 28,000 needed for the proposed constitutional amendment to go on the general election ballot.

South Dakota: ‘Top two’ primary backers fail to gather enough support | The Argus-Press

A group trying to bring a “top two” primary system to South Dakota didn’t collect enough valid signatures to get the issue onto the November ballot, the state’s chief elections official said Friday. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs’ office said in a statement that a random sampling of signatures collected by Open Primaries South Dakota found that the campaign submitted about 25,500 valid signatures, not the nearly 28,000 needed for the proposed constitutional amendment to go to voters. The rejection could be challenged in court. The group’s treasurer, De Knudson, said she’s contacted the group’s attorney but that a decision hasn’t been made on whether to challenge the decision.

South Dakota: House passes election reform bill opponents call ‘onslaught’ against initiative process | Argus Leader

South Dakota lawmakers advanced a set of proposals Wednesday aimed at blocking out-of-state influence over the process voters use to bring policy questions to the ballot. On the House floor and in committee, legislators approved bills that would restrict funding to ballot measure committees from outside the state, and require circulators to give up more information on petition forms and on the ballot. The bill’s sponsors said the proposals could block foreign groups that would aim to test policy in South Dakota, while opponents said the measures went too far and could inhibit South Dakotans’ abilities to bring issues to the ballot.

South Dakota: Senate Panel Approves Bill To Allow Tribal ID Cards For Voter Registration | SDPB

The Senate State Affairs Committee passes a bill that allows tribal identification cards to be used for voter registration. Senator Troy Heinart (D-Mission) is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. He is a prime sponsor of Senate Bill 76. Heinart says the goal of the bill is to get more South Dakotans to the polls. He says the bill has an amendment mandating collaboration between the Secretary of State’s office, the South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations, counties, and tribes to increase access to the ballot. Heinart says Senate Bill 76 also deals with differences in tribal identification cards. 

South Dakota: House approves repealing direct electronic recording | The Daily Republic

Despite some lawmakers leaving early, 59 representatives happened to still be in the House on Friday afternoon when Rep. Nancy York stood to talk. She explained what’s behind changes sought for parts of South Dakota’s election laws. York, R-Watertown, said election officials in different states are backing away from direct electronic recording of votes. South Dakota law allows it but it hasn’t been used. Security of a person’s ballot is the main reason. HB 1013 would repeal references to direct electronic recording from state law, she said.

South Dakota: Clashes over state ballot initiatives could spill into 2018 | Associated Press

Joyce Scott made hundreds of phone calls and knocked on countless doors, helping persuade South Dakota voters to approve a ballot measure last year tightening campaign contribution limits and creating a government ethics watchdog. Republican lawmakers quickly torched the new rules this year and instead are seeking changes that would make it far tougher for residents to bypass the statehouse at all. Scott and others angry about the swift repeal of the voter-backed anti-corruption initiative have turned to the 2018 ballot, hoping to enact a new constitutional amendment that even the Legislature can’t touch. “I was disgusted that we had to go through this again,” said Scott, a 75-year-old Democrat who collected signatures for the new campaign after seeing lawmakers dismantle the first ethics package. “We had already told them once what we wanted.”

South Dakota: Elections board endorses electronic voting system law change | Associated Press

The state Board of Elections has endorsed draft legislation that would block a type of electronic voting system from being used in South Dakota. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said Monday that a direct recording electronic voting system hasn’t been used in the state. Krebs says South Dakota uses paper ballots. The board supported 2018 draft legislation that would remove references to the machines from state law. Krebs says officials want to take a “very proactive approach.”

South Dakota: ACLU supporting South Dakota redistricting amendment | Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting a proposed constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission. The civil liberties organization reported an Oct. 1 expenditure of $1,145.60 for web pages supporting signature-gathering efforts for the amendment. ACLU of South Dakota spokeswoman Jen Petersen says the spending comes as part of a 50-state voting rights campaign from the ACLU’s grassroots platform.

South Dakota: Open primaries campaign to get $140K boost | Associated Press

A national nonprofit has pledged $140,000 to help supporters of a constitutional amendment that would move South Dakota to an open primary system for many races, the nonprofit’s spokesman said Tuesday. New York-based Open Primaries is supporting the amendment campaign’s signature-gathering efforts, spokesman Jeremy Gruber said. The proposed amendment would have the top two finishers in a primary advance to the general election regardless of party. Backers of the amendment hope to start gathering signatures around Sept. 1, campaign chairman Joe Kirby of Sioux Falls said. They must submit nearly 28,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state by November 2017 for the amendment to appear on the 2018 ballot.

South Dakota: Proposals could raise the bar for ballot questions | Argus Leader

After out-of-state groups spent millions of dollars on ballot measure and constitutional amendment campaigns last year, a task force is set to consider proposals Wednesday that could make it harder to pass a measure in South Dakota. Lawmakers, elections officials and ballot campaign insiders on the Initiative and Referendum Task Force have met twice this summer and are set to consider 20 draft bills aimed at reforming the state’s ballot initiative and referendum process. They could bump up the number of voters needed to pass a constitutional amendment, cap the number of amendments that voters can take up on each ballot and set up a board to hold hearings on ballot measures before voters take them up. And they’ll also consider requiring uniform font, changing filings deadlines and shifting some of the information that comes out about proposals before they hit the ballot.

South Dakota: Ballot Measure Would Allow All Mail Ballot Elections | Associated Press

Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would allow South Dakota counties to switch to elections conducted entirely by mail ballot aim to put the initiative before voters next year, the sponsor said Friday. Backers are waiting for approval to start gathering signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot. Sponsor Drey Samuelson said the vote-at-home plan would help people cast an informed vote, increase election turnout and save taxpayer money. “We’re very serious about it,” said Samuelson, a co-founder of initiative group TakeItBack.Org. “We’re going to get this on the ballot, and I’m confident that we’ll pass it.”

South Dakota: Voters list requested again by fraud panel | Capital Journal

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is considering a second request from the presidential advisory commission on election integrity for South Dakota voter registration data, an aide to Krebs said Friday. The July 26 request differs from the previous one because it promises voter information won’t be released to the public, according to spokesman Jason Williams. “The commission also stated in the second letter that they were no longer requesting personal identifying information such as Social Security numbers, driver license numbers, and full date of birth,” Williams said. He added: “This request is currently being reviewed by legal counsel to ensure that South Dakotan’s personal information is properly protected according to state law.”

South Dakota: Supporters hope to try again with redistricting amendment | Associated Press

Supporters of a constitutional amendment that would take control of redistricting from South Dakota legislators and give it to an independent commission hope to put the amendment before voters in 2018, a key supporter said Thursday. Attorney General Marty Jackley this week filed an explanation of the amendment with the secretary of state’s office, a step required before petition gatherers can spread out across the state. Supporter Rick Weiland, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, said the plan — a reprise from 2016 — would make elections fairer in South Dakota.

South Dakota: Voters May See Open Primaries Amendment in 2018 | Associated Press

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment that would switch South Dakota to an open primary system for some political offices say they plan to put the measure before voters in 2018. The effort includes veterans of a campaign last year for a similar amendment that didn’t pass, but backers of the new proposal say they’ve learned lessons from the previous push. Joe Kirby, chairman of the group proposing the constitutional amendment, said it would apply to primaries including those for the state Legislature, governor and congressional offices. For example, in a gubernatorial race under the plan, there would be an open primary in which the top two vote-getters would advance to the general election.

South Dakota: After ethics law repeal, lawmakers try to channel voter intent | Sioux Falls Argus Leader

It took eight legislative days to eliminate a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law in South Dakota. The fast-tracked effort to gut the law that would have established an independent state ethics commission, set strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers and create publicly financed campaign credits drew scorn from some of the nearly 52 percent of voters who supported the proposal. It also thrust the state in the national spotlight as Republican lawmakers rejected and rolled back the will of the voters. At the Capitol, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Dennis Daugaard were the subject of protests this week as they took the final steps to strike the law set in statute as Initiated Measure 22. Opponents of the repeal efforts chanted “shame on you” and “respect our vote” as lawmakers approved House Bill 1069, which instantly erased the law from state statute when Daugaard signed it Thursday.

South Dakota: Daugaard signs bill eliminating voter-approved ethics law | Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Thursday signed House Bill 1069, effectively repealing a voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law set into statute as Initiated Measure 22. Because the bill contains an emergency clause, it will take effect immediately. That means the law that calls for establishing an independent state ethics commission, setting strict new limits on gifts to lawmakers, and creating publicly financed campaign credits became history in South Dakota. “The circuit court enjoined Initiated Measure 22, finding it unconstitutional ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ It has not been in effect, and it is extremely unlikely that it would ever come into effect,” Daugaard said in a statement. “For that reason, it makes sense to repeal this unconstitutional measure.”

South Dakota: Lawmakers vote to gut ethics and campaign finance law, call on voters to ‘give us a chance’ | Argus Leader

The committee room felt like a courtroom Monday as lawmakers got an opportunity to cross-examine and strike back at supporters of an ethics law that campaigned on a message that South Dakota legislators are corrupt. In a joint meeting of the Senate and House State Affairs Committees lawmakers for more than two hours considered a bill that would repeal the extensive ethics and campaign finance law narrowly approved by South Dakota voters as Initiated Measure 22. Republican lawmakers grilled supporters of the law and asked them to substantiate claims set forth in their campaign. The House committee approved the repeal on a 10-3 vote then asked that South Dakota voters give them a chance to win back their trust.

South Dakota: State elections office struggling to find records for federal audit | Capital Journal

The audit is looking at how South Dakota had used hundreds of thousands of dollars received through the federal Help America Vote Act program established after the 2000 presidential election. Documents from the past needed for the audit aren’t available in some instances and some past spending is under question whether it was allowable, according to Krebs. Kristin Gabriel now is the HAVA coordinator on Krebs’ staff. Gabriel told state Board of Elections members during their meeting Thursday that HAVA is undergoing an audit that reaches back 13 years to the initial funding period. “We did our best and provided them what we had and what we could find,” Gabriel said.

South Dakota: By state law, voters allowed only 10 minutes to vote on lengthy ballot measures | Rapid City Journal

I could end up in jail on Election Day. Ever since graduating from college as a liberal arts major several decades ago, I’ve always asserted I’m equally ignorant in every academic area. But, after writing a few dozen books and several thousand newspaper and magazine articles, I always thought I could read. That is, until I tried to digest a sample ballot for next month’s general election in South Dakota. It took me nearly 20 minutes, and that was only to decipher the scaled-down version of the numerous and complicated measures on the Nov. 8 ballot. The problem is, according to South Dakota state statute 12-18-15, which carries the ominous heading, “Voting without delay — Maximum time in booth or machine — Re-entry prohibited,” by law I’ll only have 10 minutes to cast my ballot that Tuesday. Forget the contentious presidential election. Discount the congressional races. Disregard who is running for the state Legislature or the PUC. Those are easy decisions.

South Dakota: Krebs: Law prohibits write-in votes in election | Plainsman

Disillusioned voters who don’t like any of the presidential candidates in the Nov. 8 general election may be tempted to write in another name. Doing so is not allowed by state law, said Secretary of State Shantel Krebs. “What it doesn’t do is it does not throw the entire ballot out,” she said at a Beadle County Republican Party campaign luncheon in Huron on Monday. “That’s the misconception right now,” she said. “Your ballot is still marked race by race. Any race not marked is not counted.” The intense interest in the presidential race between frontrunners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is prompting the national media to regularly call secretaries of state across the country. Krebs said she also gets as many as 1,500 e-mail inquiries a day in her office.

South Dakota: Amendment V groups clash over campaign finance accusation | Argus Leader

Two organizations that urged supporters to donate money to a ballot committee that is promoting a constitutional amendment in South Dakota denied Thursday that they broke state campaign finance laws. The Vote Yes on V campaign took contributions from two outside groups, Open Primaries and TakeItBack.org, that raised and collected money explicitly to back the ballot measure. While outside groups are free to donate money to ballot committees like Yes on V, state law forbids those organizations from contributing money that was “raised or collected by the organization for the purpose of influencing the ballot question.” In at least two instances, Open Primaries and TakeItBack.org solicited donations citing their efforts to fund the South Dakota amendment, said Will Mortenson, the chairman of Vote No on V. In an email last month, Open Primaries urged its supporters to donate money to Vote Yes on V, which the group promised to match two-to-one to help fund Vote Yes on V television ads. TakeItBack.org also released an email to supporters this week endorsing Amendment V.

South Dakota: After failing in Pierre, redistricting forces turn to ballot | Associated Press

After years of trying to get South Dakota legislators to surrender control of redistricting to an independent commission, supporters of the idea are trying to do it instead through a constitutional amendment. Backers say the measure before voters this November would eliminate lawmakers’ conflict of interest and make people feel elections are fair to all parties. “It’s time for fair representation. Period,” said Democratic Rep. Peggy Gibson, who has backed at least nine independent redistricting measures since 2009. “I’m not saying it’ll be perfect, but I’m certainly thinking it will be better than the method that we have now.” Opponents — including majority Republicans — say the current system is working fine. “The idea, I think, is to elect people that are more in line with liberal ideas as far as spending money and a whole host of issues,” said GOP Rep. Jim Bolin, who served on the commission that oversaw the last redistricting plan in 2011.