Voting-centers concept gains another step toward SD usagePIERRE — The state Board of Elections adopted rule changes Tuesday intended to help advance Secretary of State Jason Gant’s agenda to make voting easier in South Dakota.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — The state Board of Elections adopted rule changes Tuesday intended to help advance Secretary of State Jason Gant’s agenda to make voting easier in South Dakota.
But board members put the brakes on other changes sought by Gant that would have reduced the bipartisan board’s role in setting the forms used for voter registration, for absentee ballot requests and for military and overseas voting requests.
Gant, a Republican who previously represented the Sioux Falls area in the state Senate, wanted the board to grant him full authority over the forms’ design.
The board deferred action until a future meeting.
A compromise offered by Democratic member Linda Lea Viken of Rapid City would allow the board to retain final approval but wouldn’t require the specific design of each form to be in state rules.
Chris Madsen of Sioux Falls, a Republican, read from a 1978 state Supreme Court decision in the Thorsness v. Daschle recount case that in a side note reflected the justices’ opinion that setting forms was one of the duties given to the board by the Legislature when the board was created in 1974.
Madsen said it wasn’t clear where the line should be drawn on the board’s involvement regarding the specific appearance and details on each form.
Viken’s suggestion was to Gant’s liking. “Well, we’ll get to work on that,” Gant said.
Gant, who was elected to the office last November, told the board members Tuesday he will be asking individual lawmakers to introduce legislation that he supports.
That would be a change from the past practice of introducing it on behalf of the secretary of state’s office or on behalf of the state board.
Gant didn’t provide any legislative proposals to share with board members for their review Tuesday.
One of the proposals generally calls for allowing the use of voting centers throughout South Dakota, rather than requiring voters to go to specific precinct polling places.
Viken asked for a copy. Gant said the final version wasn’t ready yet.
“Is there a reason you changed that?” she asked about the shift in policy.
“I don’t care about the past. What would you like?” he replied.
The voting-center concept has been Gant’s priority since 2009, when he sponsored legislation allowing its use on a test basis.
It was tried in Sioux Falls school-board elections earlier this year and was successful, he said. Voters were allowed to cast ballots at any of 10 voting centers, regardless of where they lived.