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

South Dakota lawmakers consider restrictions for absentee voting

© iStock - abluecup
Mike Moen

(Greater Dakota News Service) Proposed changes to election policy are on the table in South Dakota, and they're drawing sharp opposition from local officials.

At issue is whether the state should limit the scope of early voting. Thursday, a House committee advanced a Republican-led plan to reduce the number of early voting days from 46 to 30. The bill would also eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, with only certain exceptions - and ballot drop boxes would be outlawed.

Harding County Auditor Kathy Glines was among the local election administrators who testified against the bill. She questioned why the state needs to change options that are popular with voters.

"We don't see complaints on the 46 days," she said. "I guess it's been unclear to us as to why we think we need to shorten that window."

She added that no-excuse absentee voting is vital in a rural county such as hers, where teachers and farmers have limited time and long distances to travel. The bill's sponsor sees the longer voting period as a burden on administrators and has said it creates opportunity for fraud, but acknowledged that no serious issues prompted the plan, instead citing anecdotal concerns from his constituents. 

Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke argued that despite chatter about voter fraud, local administrators carry out elections with the highest level of integrity. 

"We do not want our reputations tarnished," she said, "and we take elections very seriously."

Kiepke noted that because people are now used to living in a more mobile society, it's hard to make plans to vote on Election Day. She added that because of the pandemic, some also are no longer comfortable in crowds or waiting in lines.

The bill now heads to the House floor. 

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