South Dakota begins absentee voting for primary
By Nora Hertel
PIERRE (AP) — South Dakota voters who live out of the state, will be travelling on Election Day or simply want to cast their vote early can do so with absentee ballots beginning Friday.
Secretary of State Jason Gant said all 66 counties in the state are sending out ballots that were requested beginning Jan. 1. Republicans and Democrats will face off against fellow party members June 3.
State Republicans and Democrats encourage residents to vote in the primary elections, but don't specify which candidate to vote for in the party.
In the 2012 general election, Gant said 30 percent of the votes tallied were from absentee ballots. He said the number of absentee ballots depends on the particular primary.
"I think we could have a strong absentee turnout," he said, considering there are Republican primaries for governor and U.S. Senate races.
Five Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination for the Senate seat: former Gov. Mike Rounds, who is considered the front-runner; state Rep. Stace Nelson, of Fulton; state Sen. Larry Rhoden, of Union Center; Yankton attorney and soldier Jason Ravnsborg; and Sioux Falls physician Annette Bosworth.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard will face Republican challenger Lora Hubbel. And two Democratic challengers for the governor's seat will fill that primary ballot: state Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton and Joe Lowe.
"When they vote, that's up to them," said Craig Lawrence, chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party. "It's our responsibility to be impartial, to encourage healthy debate. It's rigorous debate this time."
While Republicans are neutral on the topic, Democrats across the state are encouraging early voting.
"Absentee voting has been a more and more important part of the election process," said Zach Crago, Executive Director of the South Dakota Democratic Party. "Life gets in the way and weather is unpredictable."
Residents can vote between now and the election with an absentee ballot, in person at their county courthouses or by mail.
Absentee voting is open through the June 2 deadline, but Gant warns people to be wary of the time it takes to request, receive and mail ballots. They have to be received by 5 p.m. the day before Election Day.
Residents must be registered to vote to request an absentee ballot. Other voters must register 15 days before Election Day. Only registered Republicans can vote in the party's primary. Independents and Democrats can vote on the Democratic ticket.
Depending on the region, some ballots will include city, school board and county races. City and school races are non-partisan.
The state will track and post the total number of absentee votes beginning Monday.