Most South Dakota county auditors disagree with election drop box ban | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

When the question of using election drop boxes for South Dakota early voting was raised in a House State Affairs committee hearing in Pierre in early February, the discussion took on an ominous tone, mirroring national rhetoric over the integrity of American elections. “It’s simply too easy for bad actors to abuse these drop-off sites to dump unauthorized ballots illegally,” said Republican Rep. Kirk Chaffee of Whitewood. He was the prime sponsor of House Bill 1165, which modified absentee voting rules and banned the use of unmonitored drop boxes in South Dakota. T.J. Nelson, a lobbyist for Opportunity Solutions Project, a conservative advocacy group that has pushed for restrictions to absentee voting in state legislatures, also issued warnings while working with legislators and county auditors to make it “easier to vote but harder to cheat,” a mantra used by supporters of early-voting reforms.

Full Article: Most South Dakota county auditors disagree with election drop box ban – South Dakota News Watch

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem signs post-election audit, other election bills into law | Eric Mayer/KELO

On Wednesday morning, Gov. Kristi Noem announced she signed 12 election-related bills into law. More than 30 bills were listed under that category of “elections” by the South Dakota Legislative Research Council during this  Among the changes for upcoming elections are a creating post-election audit, a 30-day residency requirement for voter registration, public testing of tabulating equipment within 10 days of an election, allowing school boards to change term lengths to help joint elections as well as bans to absentee ballot drop boxes, ranked-choice voting and a penalty for public funds being used to influence an outcome of an election. Other bills clarify or update current law regarding the Secretary of State’s office requiring maintenance of voter rolls and the list of candidates. “South Dakota’s election laws are built with integrity. We have one of the best election systems in the nation,” Noem said in a news release. “With these laws, we will further strengthen our fantastic system and provide accountability for the future.”

Full Article: Gov. Kristi Noem signs post-election audit, other election bills into law

South Dakota Senate wants post-election audits | Bob Mercer/KELO

South Dakota counties would be required to conduct post-election audits of ballot-counting machines under a plan moving ahead in the Legislature.State senators voted 34-0 on Monday for SB-160. The bill now heads to the House of Representatives where the lead sponsor is Republican Rep. Drew Peterson. Republican Sen. David Wheeler said state government will pay counties for the cost of the audits. He said South Dakota is one of the few states where post-election audits aren’t done. “It’s appropriate for us to do a spot-check, and that’s what this would do,” said Wheeler, the bill’s prime sponsor. Counties would check the two statewide contests that are closest in outcome each election. “So people can have confidence the machines are counting correctly,” Wheeler said. Secretary of State Monae Johnson’s office testified in “soft” opposition during the Senate committee hearing, according to Wheeler. She plans to conduct a study this summer. One of the points she ran on last year was the need for post-election audits.

Source: Senate wants post-election audits for South Dakota

South Dakota: Tabulator catches human error in Tripp County post-election audit | Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight

The case of Tripp County’s 75 “missing” ballots has been solved, County Auditor Barb Desersa said this week. The discrepancy emerged last week after a hand count of ballots in the only county in South Dakota in nearly 20 years to perform one. The mismatch does not have any impact on election results. Tripp County officials were prepared to ask for a court order to reopen a ballot box to find the answer, but the question was resolved without one. The human error explanation for the mismatch, it turned out, was right there in the records from the vote tabulator – the machine that county commissioners had ordered Desersa not to use to tally the county’s official, reportable Election Day results. A Thursday vote canvas revealed a discrepancy in a single precinct between the number of official, completed ballots recorded in the poll book and the number of audited ballots in one precinct. Several races had to be recounted by Tripp County’s volunteer counting boards – sometimes three or four times on election night. The last precinct to come in, Colome, had mismatched numbers according to the tabulator audit the next day. Desersa ran the audit to prove to her county commissioners and residents that the machine was accurate. The mismatched numbers prove the point, Desersa said Monday.

Full Article: Tabulator catches human error in Tripp County post-election audit – South Dakota Searchlight

South Dakota: Tripp County to hand count election ballots | Eric Mayer and Rae Yost/KELO

Tripp County Commissioner Joyce Kartak made the motion and Dan Forgey seconded the motion to hand count the ballots. The motion came after an hour and 45 minute discussion was held on the concerns of the elections and the machine used to count the ballots, according to minutes from the Tripp County Commission. “It actually surprised me,” DeSarsa said of being able to find enough volunteers to help hand count the votes. “It wasn’t terrible.” The votes will counted by hand at the precinct sites, she said. “I thought that was the best way,” DeSarsa said. Roughly 80% of the site workers said they stay to help count votes, while others can’t stay to count, DeSarsa said. Given that, she needed eight to 10 additional volunteers. … Tripp County will also be using the voting tabulation machine that night. “We were asked to do the machine count (too),” DeSersa said. The hand count will be the official count.

Full Article: Tripp County to hand count election ballots

South Dakota: Lincoln County voter confusion delays talks of buying iPads for polls | Nicole Ki/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Lincoln County commissioners have decided to delay discussions about adopting a new electronic poll-book system, following public outcry at Tuesday’s meeting about last week’s election. The new digital system would implement iPads at polling locations countywide to streamline the process of signing in voters through KnowInk, the nation’s leading provider for digital poll books. “I’m actually appalled that you would bring up having poll pads after last Thursday’s referendum election,” said resident Karla Lems at the commissioner’s meeting. “Some of the Sioux Falls polling places weren’t changed, and not once were voters notified that they had a new polling place to go to.” … Adopting electronic poll books would increase efficiency at polling locations by cutting the time poll workers would spend manually going through voter registration information. “Usually, we sit there for 40 hours at least, and scan every barcode to update people’s voter information,” said Lund. “This would plug into the poll pad into the computer, and within 24 hours we would have the election [how many voters were there].”

Full Article: Lincoln County voter confusion delays talks of buying iPads for polls

South Dakota Senate committee defeats ban on mailing absentee ballot applications | Nathan Thompson/Rapid City Journal

A bill seeking to ban the secretary of state from automatically mailing absentee ballot applications failed Monday in the Senate State Affairs Committee. HB1126, sponsored by Rep. Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen, and Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, would have outlawed the secretary of state’s office from mailing applications for an absentee ballot unless the voter requested it. Dennert said the bill was meant to add another layer of security for absentee voting and ensure more confidence in the process. “Historically, our absentee system has been a secure way to vote. However, many will agree the most secure form of voting is in person, and I believe we should encourage our citizens who are able to physically vote on election day or by in-person absentee when possible,” Dennert said. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the secretary of state’s office pre-emptively mailed out absentee ballot applications to all South Dakota voters for the 2020 elections. Secretary of State Steve Barnett said he wanted every registered voter in the state to have the opportunity to vote and encouraged people to cast their ballots by mail because of the pandemic.

Full Article: Senate committee defeats ban on mailing absentee ballot applications | Legislature |

South Dakota Senate stops online voter registration bill | Local Abby Wargel/Capital Journal

South Dakota Republican Secretary of State Steve Barnett on Friday testified that Senate Bill 24 would “create a system that provides South Dakotans with a useful tool” in terms of allowing online voter registration. However, the GOP-dominated Senate State Affairs Committee put a quick halt to the effort, passing an amendment to the original legislation that makes it so voters it would allow voters to change their address online, but not register to vote. Ultimately, Senate Bill 24, which had been intended to create an online voter registration interface allowing voters to register online, passed the committee with the amendment. Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, D-Mission, said this “completely guts” the original bill. Currently, South Dakota is one of only 10 states that does not allow voter registration to occur online. There were multiple testimonies from the bill’s supporters, among them Barnett, while no one testified against the bill. However, Senate Majority Whip Jim Bolin, R-Canton, proposed an amendment that would only allow voters to change their address online, but not register to vote.

Full Article: S.D. Senate stops online voter registration bill | Local News Stories |

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.