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Election changes win SD Senate’s OK

PIERRE — The state Senate unanimously approved two sets of reforms for South Dakota elections Tuesday.

One would allow members of the armed forces to vote with digital technology rather than by U.S. mail.

The other would establish a backup system for spring elections interrupted by bad weather or some other emergency

The two measures, SB 34 and SB 35, now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.

They are proposed by the state Board of Elections, including Secretary of State Jason Gant.

The armed-forces voting change is intended to speed up the process. Many times those ballots arrive days or weeks later by mail.

The delayed-election change comes in the wake of the snowstorms last April that disrupted municipal and school-board elections in some communities.

The legislation calls for the election to resume one week later at the time that the voting was stopped because of emergency.

Election officials also can decide in advance whether to open the polls at all in an emergency.

They would be allowed to reach that decision within 24 hours before the time the polls are scheduled to open. The election then would be held one week later.

The legislation doesn’t allow for postponement longer than 24 hours in advance. “You potentially open a can of worms,” Sen. Ried Holien, R-Watertown, said.

“This is a good piece of legislation,” Sen. Larry Lucas, D-Mission, said. This gives leeway during April municipal and school elections, he said.

The June primary elections and November general elections won’t be affected. Gant testified at a Senate hearing that the general election date is set in the South Dakota Constitution.

Both measures passed on votes of 35-0.