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Kiepke's election decisions supported by commissioners

Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke said there are people in the community who are irate about the new vote-counting machine and the problems that were encountered during the primary election.

Kiepke told that to the Davison County Commission on Thursday at the courthouse in Mitchell during its weekly meeting, which is normally held on Tuesday but was moved later in the week because of the election.

Kiepke told the commissioners her account of what happened during the counting process. Stamps on some ballots were too dark, causing problems for the $108,000 machine to read votes properly. Of the $108,000 cost, $36,000 was covered by a grant, leaving the county with a $72,000 bill for the machine.

"I'm even more convinced that this was the right thing to do," she said. "The machine worked great. I have no regrets about the machine."

The ballots that caused problems for the machine were replaced, remarked and rescanned. The fixed ballots were correctly read by the machine.

Absentee ballots, which had a lighter stamp, had no problem going through the machine. Three resolution boards were used to fix the issue, each board consisting of one Republican and one Democrat.

"Instead of panicking, we had a plan and we executed it," Kiepke said of the machine. "I'm even more convinced that this was the right thing to do."

Kiepke noted her appreciation of election officials, who she said do a thankless job. Kiepke told the story of an election worker who had to turn away a voter wearing a Stace Nelson T-shirt at the polling place. The election worker, Kiepke said, was screamed at by the supporter for "violating her right to vote."

Endorsements on buttons, shirts and signs are not allowed near a polling location, she said.

"The person has to turn the shirt inside out or cover up the button," Kiepke said. "You can't have any campaign material in the polling area."

The commissioners, the group that unanimously purchased the vote-counting machine in April, supported Kiepke's work.

"You've saved an awful lot of grief for other counties down the road," Commission Chairman John Claggett said, adding a handful of counties will follow Davison's lead with getting a new machine in November.

The state of South Dakota must buy all of its election materials through ES&S because the state needs uniformity, Kiepke said.

Other business

During their regular meeting Thursday, the commission:

• Canvassed the results of Tuesday's primary election and made the results official.

• Approved a raffle request from the Davison County Democrats to sell 300 raffle tickets at $5 apiece as a fundraiser for their 2014 candidates with cash prizes to be awarded.

• Scheduled the first round of 2015 budget reviews for the June 17 meeting.