Secretary of State Jason Gant will convene a task force this fall to consider possible changes to the state plan under the Help America Vote Act. The decision to name a task force comes after Gant and the Board of Elections deflected a request to establish in-person absentee voting and voter registration stations in three predominantly Native American communities. In his release announcing the task force, Gant said that issue and others could be addressed by the task force. The news release said Gant hoped the group would “strive for uniformity in our election system across all South Dakota counties.” Earlier this summer, voting rights group Four Directions asked the state’s Board of Elections to approve a request to place absentee voting stations in Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson. Four Directions Executive Director OJ Semans noted the state still had about $9 million in HAVA funds, money that Congress appropriated to states to modernize voting equipment and procedures following the controversial presidential election of 2000. Semans estimated the request would cost the state $50,000 per election cycle.
But Gant and three other members of the Board of Elections resisted the idea, and Gant insisted he needed to get the approval of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which decides whether certain expenses are appropriate for HAVA funds. However, that commission currently has no members and therefore can’t issue advisory opinions.
Gant released a letter from the EAC’s Monica Holman Evans that addressed his request for an advisory opinion. The letter indicated that no answer would be forthcoming.
“EAC currently does not have enough seated commissioners to form a quorum,” she wrote.
But a switch to the state’s HAVA plan through a task force could enable the state to provide additional in-person absentee vote centers beyond the one that is in each county courthouse 46 days before primary and general elections.
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