MERCER: If you're waiting for latest scandal, then wait to vote
PIERRE -- One rite of spring in South Dakota in even-numbered years is early voting in the county and statewide primary elections. Officially known as absentee voting, citizens may go to the courthouse or request a ballot by mail and vote before primary election day.
We've asked but haven't found that statistics were kept for absentee voting in the 2012 primaries. The secretary of state office posted the absentee voting numbers for the 2010 primary and general elections and for the 2012 general elections.
For this spring's primary elections, updates are posted on absentee activity. The Web page is a bit difficult to find; rather than listed with absentee voting, it's grouped with upcoming election information. But it's good it's someplace.
Absentee early voting began April 18, and runs through June 2. Primary election day is June 3.
The statistics on the Web page for this year's primaries as of mid-morning Friday (when this column was written) were statewide results through April 23.
They showed 1,241 ballots requested and sent, and 343 returned. That's a pace per day of about 310 requests and 85 returned. County numbers aren't shown.
Both Gov. Dennis Daugaard and former Gov. Mike Rounds are urging people to vote early. Each is in a primary.
Former state Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls is challenging Daugaard for the Republican nomination for governor.
Four candidates -- state Sen. Larry Rhoden of Union Center, state Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton, Annette Bosworth of Sioux Falls and Jason Ravnsborg of Yankton -- are competing with Rounds for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
The Democrats have one statewide primary. Joe Lowe of Piedmont and state Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
There are many dozens of primaries for legislative nominations and courthouse nominations, too. A lot are rough.
The drawback to voting absentee early is that something significant might come to light in the days or weeks after you cast your ballot.
The advantage to voting absentee early is there's no chance you'll decide to skip the election.
I haven't seen definitive information that early voting improves turnout. I also haven't seen information about how many non-Democrats vote in Democratic primaries in South Dakota. Democrats allow it, while Republicans accept only Republicans.
Use of absentee early voting varied in recent elections.
The 2012 general saw absentee early ballots account for more than 20 percent of the votes cast in Codington, Custer, Fall River, Haakon, Hanson, Lake, Lawrence, Pennington and Yankton counties. Below 5 percent were Corson, Mellette, Shannon, Todd and Ziebach.
The 2010 general saw Beadle, Brookings, Brown, Clay, Codington, Custer, Davison, Day, Fall River, Grant, Hand, Hanson, Lake, Lawrence, Pennington, Todd, Turner and Yankton exceed 20 percent. Only Union was below 5 percent.
The 2010 primaries saw just Hanson, Hyde, McPherson and Spink counties exceed 20 percent. Below 5 percent were Bon Homme, Clark, Corson, Faulk, Gregory, Jackson, McCook, Roberts, Sanborn, Todd and Turner.
Absentee early voting is an option taken by many South Dakotans. We'll keep looking for 2012 primary statistics as we await numbers from the primaries this spring.