House panel OKs bill on South Dakota vote centersPIERRE — In an effort to reduce costs and make voting easier, South Dakota lawmakers are pushing a bill through the House that establishes vote centers as the go-to locations for casting ballots in the state.
By: VERONICA ZARAGOVIA, The Associated Press
PIERRE — In an effort to reduce costs and make voting easier, South Dakota lawmakers are pushing a bill through the House that establishes vote centers as the go-to locations for casting ballots in the state.
The House Local Government Committee voted unanimously Thursday to approve a bill that would allow school districts, cities and counties to operate vote centers instead of smaller polling places.
Vote centers keep a digital database of registered voters, called electronic poll books. Upon arrival, voters present their drivers’ licenses and receive a paper ballot. People would no longer be limited to the specific polling places near their homes.
Every electronic poll book is connected to all other books in the jurisdiction, so that once someone votes, he or she can’t cast another ballot.
Supporters of the bill say it would facilitate voting throughout the day because people could go to a nearby voting center, regardless of where they live. Such centers use fewer poll workers and allow jurisdictions to save on rent by running fewer centers.
The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Todd Schlekeway, R-Sioux Falls, called this method an “exciting way” to conduct future elections.
In 2010, the South Dakota Legislature passed a bill that allowed a pilot project for the Sioux Falls school district to use vote centers during their school board election last spring. Schelekeway said the district deemed the concept a success after reviewing voter responses and cost analyses.
Poll worker Bev Chase said the Sioux Falls School District saved $1,500 on rent during its last election and hired 72 workers instead of 262 people hired in 2010.
If the measure becomes law, it would take effect immediately so Sioux Falls could use voting centers in an April school district election.
Schlekeway said seven South Dakota counties have expressed interest.
Other parts of the U.S. that have already incorporated similar systems include Dallas County in Texas, Teppecanoe County, Ill., Fargo, N.D., and Larimar County, Colo.
“The beauty of the e-poll books is no matter which place you turn up at, you’re at the right location,” Interim Sioux Falls City Clerk Sue Roust said.
“Not having to turn a voter away ... is just priceless.”