South Dakota’s top elections official said Wednesday that he sees no way for a Rapid City woman to be added to the Republican primary ballot against U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, even though a hearing is set for next month to hear the woman’s case. Secretary of State Jason Gant said he cannot put Stephanie Strong on the statewide June 5 primary ballot because South Dakota law requires that ballots had to have been given to county auditors by Wednesday so absentee voting can start Friday, also set by law. A federal law requires that absentee ballots be provided to military personnel and other overseas voters beginning Saturday, he said. Another primary race cannot be added to the ballot after people have already started voting absentee, Gant said. Once people have cast absentee ballots that do not include any GOP congressional primary race, those ballots cannot be pulled back, he said. Noem is expected to run uncontested, so the GOP congressional race won’t be included on the ballot. “I absolutely do not see any possibility on how we could add someone to the ballot after today,” Gant said Wednesday.
Strong argues that Gant, the state’s chief elections officer, unfairly rejected some of the signatures on her nominating petitions. Strong argues that she presented enough valid signatures on her nominating petition to qualify her for the June 5 primary ballot. Circuit Judge Mark Barnett of Pierre held a brief hearing Tuesday in Strong’s case, but he adjourned after a few minutes because he was unable to reach Strong on the telephone. Barnett said he was unable to determine whether Gant had been properly served with the lawsuit.