South Dakota: Hand counting errors muddle post-election audit in McPherson County | Stu Whitney/SD Newswatch

South Dakota’s most populous county, Minnehaha, was in the spotlight this week after its top election official ordered the county’s post-election audit to consist of all 2024 primary ballots being counted by hand. But the debate over counting votes by hand vs. machines found a more decisive venue 250 miles away in McPherson County, on the state’s northeast edge bordering North Dakota, with a population of about 2,300. On June 13, citizen hand-counting boards were formed in the county seat of Leola, South Dakota, to conduct a post-election audit of 100% of the ballots from the June 4 primary, which had been tallied by machine tabulators on election day. Read Article

South Dakota: Minnehaha County auditor plans recount of two elections; commissioner calls timing ‘irresponsible’ | Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight

The top election official in South Dakota’s most-populated county continued to cast doubt Tuesday on past election results reported by the county, while explaining plans to recount the results of two elections by hand and saying 132 ballots rejected during the June 4 primary will remain omitted from the official count. Dozens of people crowded into a Minnehaha County Commission meeting in downtown Sioux Falls to hear County Auditor Leah Anderson’s comments. Anderson, a Republican elected in 2022, has associated with people who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election. Last week, Anderson appeared in an online interview with election conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell, the CEO of the MyPillow company. Read Article

South Dakota voters reject machine-counting ban in all three counties where it was on the ballot | Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight

A majority of voters in three South Dakota counties showed their trust in the state’s current election system Tuesday as they rejected proposed bans on tabulator machines. The votes were in Gregory, Haakon and Tripp counties. Citizen groups petitioned the measures onto the ballots in an effort to ban vote-counting machines and force a switch to hand counting. Nearly 40% of registered voters turned out for the Gregory County primary election. Auditor Julie Bartling is confident the results reflect how all voters across the county would have voted. “They listened to the pros and cons, and I believe this vote shows they still have confidence in the tabulators and the work we do here in the auditor’s office,” Bartling said Tuesday night. “We’re a small county and we know each other. You just want people to have a sense they can have trust and confidence in me not only as an elected official, but as a neighbor and friend.” Read Article

South Dakota Board of Elections, Secretary of State reject hand count petitions | C.J. Keene/SDPB

The South Dakota Board of Elections is rejecting an effort to move the state back to hand-counted ballots. The move resulted in heated public comment during Wednesday’s meeting, including calls for the Secretary of State to resign. After a 45-minute executive session, the board announced a major aim of the South Dakota Canvassing group was not proper. The group seeks to implement hand-counted ballots in response to mistrust of the electronic voting systems. Those petitions were submitted by Rick Weible. Clifton Katz, the board’s legal counsel, explained the roadblock the group ran into. “In this case, Mr. Weible did not set forth an issue to be answered by the board,” Katz said. “The petitioner instead wants the board to act by, among other items, issuing letters, decertifying ES&S Systems, and ordering the counties to suspend ES&S Express Vote system. Therefore, it is not appropriate to enter a declaratory ruling in this matter.” Read Article

South Dakota: Three counties will vote on banning ballot tabulator machines, requiring hand-counting | Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight

Three South Dakota counties will ask voters during the June 4 primary if they should ban the use of tabulator machines in future local elections. If the measures pass, the auditor’s offices in each county would have to hand-count ballots in the Nov. 5 general election and thereafter. The votes – in Gregory, Haakon and Tripp counties – were forced by citizen-initiated petitions at the county level. The auditors in each county are now working to educate their citizens on the election process, including the accuracy and safety of tabulators, and highlighting the potential financial consequences of hand-counting ballots. Read Article

South Dakota: Misinfo spawns attempts to ban electronic voting | Renee Ortiz/KELO

Petitions advocating for the option to hand-count ballots in South Dakota counties are circulating, yet many commissions, including the McPherson County Commission, are opting not to put the question on the ballot due to legal constraints. Despite concerns raised by some residents about the use of electronic tabulation devices, state and federal laws mandate their use to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities and to provide accurate and timely election results. Officials highlight the existing safeguards in place, such as post-election audits and the absence of internet connectivity in tabulating machines, to ensure the security and integrity of elections in South Dakota. Read Article

South Dakota: Election petitions seek a return to hand counting | C.J. Keene/SDPB

At a moment when public trust in elections is crucial, there are some people who want to ditch voting machines in favor of a return to hand counting ballots. A campaign in South Dakota aims to get signed petitions in front of local government officials. The current effort has real implications for the people who manage local elections. McPherson County auditor Lindley Howard is familiar with unsubstantiated complaints of voter fraud. She’s been called a “traitor” on one far-right commentary website. But this kind of rhetoric isn’t limited to the internet. Howard said on occasion she’s had people watching her as a result of her job. Read Article

South Dakota: Experts don’t want hand counted ballots | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

A survey conducted among 49 out of 66 county auditors in South Dakota revealed that the majority do not consider hand counting to be an efficient or effective method of tabulating votes. Concerns over human error and time consumption were cited, with many auditors expressing trust in the accuracy of tabulation machines. While some auditors acknowledged the role of hand counting in smaller elections, they deemed it impractical for larger-scale contests. Despite advocacy from grassroots organizations like South Dakota Canvassing for hand counting, support among county officials remains limited, with only a few counties opting for hand counting in the upcoming elections. Read Article

South Dakota: Petitions circulate in at least 18 counties to eliminate vote tabulators and require hand counting | Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight

South Dakotans advocating for enhanced election security are mobilizing efforts to mandate hand-counting of ballots in the upcoming general election, with petitions circulated in multiple counties. State law permits citizens to petition for proposed laws to be voted on publicly, requiring signatures from 5% of registered voters in a jurisdiction; some completed petitions have already been submitted in Lawrence and McPherson counties. The movement, led by the South Dakota Canvassing Group, seeks to overhaul election procedures in response to concerns raised since the 2020 election, particularly regarding the security of electronic tabulators. However, legal experts and lawmakers are scrutinizing these petitions for potential violations of state and federal laws, including disability rights provisions, prompting legislative action to allow authorities to reject petitions deemed illegal. Read Article

South Dakota: Hand counting-voting machines debate rages | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

A survey involving 49 out of the state’s 66 county auditors revealed that nearly 90% of respondents do not consider hand counting an effective and efficient method of tabulating ballots due to increased chances of human error and time consumption, with many expressing trust in current tabulation machines. Despite a state law mandating post-election audits using hand counts, some auditors advocate for hand counting only in smaller elections, while others, like Minnehaha County Auditor Leah Anderson, support hand counting with proper training and resources. Read Article

South Dakota: Minnehaha County auditor responds to criticism of her comments on county’s voting system | Trevor J. Mitchell/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

Minnehaha County Auditor Leah Anderson responded to criticism from South Dakota Democrats regarding her comments on the county’s election systems, stating that her goal is to ensure accurate, accessible, and secure elections. Anderson recently criticized the state’s voting equipment vendoor ES&S on a conference call, claiming they weren’t providing proper training and expressing mistrust in the voting systems. Anderson also raised concerns about ES&S machines that “flipped votes” in Northampton County Pennsylvania – although those machines were ExpressVote XLs, which are not used in South Dakota. Read Article

South Dakota: Former small-town mayor is behind the rise of electoral activism in the state. He’s just getting started. | Stu Whitney/South Dakota News Watch

Rick Weible, a prominent election denier in the Midwest, played a significant role in South Dakota’s 2022 race for secretary of state by supporting Monae Johnson, a nominee who publicly expressed doubts about the validity of the 2020 election. Weible, a former small-town mayor and Republican Party operative, initially considered running but backed Johnson, viewing her as a candidate who could help reform the system. However, Weible later discovered problems with Johnson’s campaign, alleging it was a “complete fraud.” Despite this, Johnson won with 61% of the vote, supported by far-right delegates. Weible’s influence in the state’s electoral activism, driven by unfounded allegations of rigged voting systems, has contributed to a movement demanding transparency and reforms in South Dakota’s election processes. The state has responded with legislation banning drop boxes and addressing voter-roll updates, residency requirements, post-election audits, and testing of tabulation equipment, reflecting a broader trend in rural Republican states to restrict voting access. Weible, now a vocal advocate for election reforms, benefits from the supportive political environment in South Dakota. Read Article

South Dakota: Minnehaha County auditor might want to hand count election ballots | Annie Todd/Sioux Falls Argus Leader

During a routine approval for an election systems agreement in Minnehaha County, a debate arose regarding the future of voting in Sioux Falls. County Auditor Leah Anderson suggested the possibility of hand counting ballots in upcoming elections, expressing a preference for combining random hand counts at precinct levels with tabulators to ensure caution in using election technology. She referenced a state statute allowing county commissions to decide how elections are conducted, including the use of automatic tabulation or electronic ballot marking systems. Read Article

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.