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Krebs, Gant disagree over cost for 27 votes

PIERRE—Secretary of State Shantel Krebs told legislators Friday that its high cost might force her to shut off an electronic voting system started by her predecessor, Jason Gant.

But Gant said he is proud of it, even though only 27 military personnel used it to cast ballots in the 2014 election.

Krebs said the system was developed using a $668,000 grant from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

State records show Gant signed a contract on Aug. 23, 2013, to pay a software company to build the iOASIS program for military personnel.

It was intended to be a much-faster and more attractive substitute for traditional absentee ballots.

The contract called for an initial payment of $200,000 to the company, Everyone Counts Inc., of San Diego.

The deal also required $50,000 maintenance payments to the company in 2014 and 2016.

"We're going to have to re-evaluate to see whether it is a worthwhile contract to move forward with," she said.

Krebs and Gant made their comments to the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee.

The voting system was one piece covered in a special report that Krebs requested be assembled by the state Department of Legislative Audit.

The audit work questioned a variety of practices and identified problems, such as three missing laptops that were purchased for the iOASIS system.

Gant told the committee that he didn't know such a report could be requested. He said he would have asked for one when he took office and another one six months before he left office.

He said he should have taken more of a hands-on approach. The disappearance of the original state flag that had been in office and since recovered on Oct. 8 was "taken by a former employee," he said.

Gant said the laptops were inadvertently lost and he should have had a check-in check-out policy.

In closing, he said he was proud of accomplishments such as improvements in military voting, use of vote centers and on-line filing of business documents.

"The successes were many," he said, and added that he made mistakes.

When none of the legislators chose to ask any questions, Gant asked to further address the committee.

He said iOASIS would be "the benchmark for the future of military voting" because it uses the common access card issued by the U.S. Department of Defense to military personnel and military contractors.

"It would be unfortunate if that program goes away," Gant said. He described voting with iOASIS as a five-minute process rather than going back and forth to request and receive an absentee ballot.

"I hope it does continue in the future because I think the benefits are enormous."

Gant signed the contract for iOASIS just weeks ahead of Krebs filing a statement of organization in 2013.

That was effectively her notice to Gant that she would challenge for the Republican nomination for secretary of state.

Within a few weeks after that, Gant said he wouldn't seek a second term.

He made a trip to Germany in March 2014 to see the iOASIS system tested at a military base.

Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, asked Gant at the end of the presentation if it was true that only 27 people voted using iOASIS in 2014.

"Yes, it was very slow at the beginning," Gant answered.

Gant said many members of the South Dakota National Guard served overseas in the previous decade.

"I know 27 doesn't sound like a wonderful number, but it was a program 27 individuals took advantage of," Gant said.

Gant added that he would rather have them vote than get frustrated and not vote.