South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant wants a task force to address election options during emergencies, such as when an ice storm tore through the state in April, postponing 30 elections. The goal of the task force will be twofold, Gant said. One priority will be to evaluate the actions made by governing bodies to postpone or continue the April 9 elections. “In the conversations I have had with folks who have worked elections, no one could remember a time when 30 elections were postponed,” Gant said. “We need to be proactive in dealing with issues. We need to see what worked, what didn’t work.”
Gant also wants the state law assessed. He said one possibility could be suggesting to specify different emergency situations, such as a snowstorm compared to a pipe break, and accompany each with instructions on how to deal with the emergency.
“If we can put more guidance in the state law on how to handle these kind of emergencies, local polling stations could be in a better situation to resolve them,” Gant said.
South Dakota law states that any governing body holding a local election may delay opening a polling station, except in the case of primary or general election, for one week if weather conditions make it impossible to open at the correct time. County auditors can, upon request, extend the polling hours of a precinct until an emergency situation has been resolved.