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Independent voters hit six figures in SD

By Bob Mercer

Capitol Correspondent

PIERRE — South Dakota passed an electoral milestone this month, as independents topped 100,000 for the first time.

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The statewide monthly totals on Oct. 1 were 100,670 independents; 244,793 Republicans; 188,618 Democrats; 384 Constitutionalists; 1,275 Libertarians; and six Americans Elect.

Nearly all of the growth in South Dakota’s voter registration came in the independent column during recent years.

Looking back at the 2006 general election, registration numbers were 74,608 independents; 240,101 Republicans; 190,905 Democrats; 350 Constitutionalists; offices.

Voter registration drives often are held too, including at college, university and technical institute campuses.

MILK WRESTLING: The state Department of Agriculture will try again Wednesday with a public hearing on its proposed labeling rules for raw milk sold in South Dakota.

The hearing is at 10 a.m. Central in room 412 of the state Capitol in Pierre.

The Legislature’s rules review committee previously directed department officials to revert to an earlier step in the rule-making process for several reasons.

The financial analysis wasn’t adequately performed and the department’s consolidation of existing rules and proposed rules were difficult to sift.

A question remains among some of the six legislators on the panel will determine the department has legal authority under state law.

The rules proposed for the hearing Wednesday are the same as those considered by the committee last time when they were sent back.

FOREIGN AID: There are sports agents. There are travel agents. Then there are agents for international students. They will be one of the topics Wednesday afternoon when the state Board of Regents meets at Black Hills State University in Spearfish.

The regents will look at guidelines for the state universities to use in dealing with the agents for international students. The agents’ fees are sometimes paid by students, sometimes by the institutions and sometimes both, according to a briefing document provided to the regents.

Also proposed is that each university shall file a report that will be delivered to the regents annually.

The report would include number of agents employed, cost of each agent, number of students recruited by each agent and the academic record of each group of students recruited.

An audit at Dickinson State University last year found that hundreds of international students received credits and degrees without attending courses at the North Dakota school.