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Closeup of a computer keyboard with a key labeled "Vote." A miniature ballot box is sitting on the key

Ballot dropbox ban a barrier in South Dakota primary

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Kathleen Shannon

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(Greater Dakota News Service) South Dakota's June 4 primary will be the first national election here since ballot dropboxes were banned in 2023.

It is one of 12 states to ban using dropboxes to cast votes, although no state election offices using the boxes in 2020 found a connection to voter fraud or stolen ballots, according to an Associated Press survey. The change is more likely to impact rural and tribal voters, who already face barriers to voting.

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PROMO Map - South Dakota State Map - iStock - klenger

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Senator Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said although Native voter turnout for tribal elections is good, turnout for statewide elections is lower. He said dropboxes helped.

"It was something that a lot of people utilized on our reservation communities, where you might have to travel 70 miles to go vote," Bordeaux explained.

A 2022 federal report on Native American voting rights encourages local officials to provide sites for voter registration, polling and mail ballot collection in places convenient for Native voters.

Early voting is still possible with a mail-in absentee ballot. But Bordeaux pointed out it can be complicated on reservations, where most homes do not have street addresses. The state's voter registration form allows applicants to describe or draw a map of where they live, but they cannot use post office box numbers.

"I can't get UPS or the typical person to find my house on a map," Bordeaux noted. "It makes it even more difficult for me to figure out how to get our tribal membership so that they can vote, you know, without the P.O. box number."

Plus, South Dakota does not accept tribal ID cards for voter registration. Bordeaux sponsored a bill to change the rule in the last legislative session, but he said it was pulled from the House floor by a different sponsor who predicted it wouldn't pass. The deadline for voter registration is May 20.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.