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Krebs confident in election process

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs talks to a crowd on Thursday at Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell. Krebs visited the university to talk about how voting works, and some of the issues that will be on the South Dakota ballot on election day. (Sarah Barclay/Republic)

Donald Trump may believe the 2016 U.S. presidential election could be "rigged," but South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs expressed confidence in the system.

Krebs took to Dakota Wesleyan University's McGovern Library in Mitchell Thursday afternoon to explain the election process and 2016 ballot initiatives to approximately 40 students and faculty in attendance, and during her presentation, Krebs spoke favorably about the integrity of South Dakota's election process.

"We love paper ballots in South Dakota," Krebs said. "That means you're not connected to the internet in any way, shape or form."

Krebs' comments came less than 24 hours after Trump, the Republican nominee for president, refused to say whether he would accept the presidential election results during his final presidential debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton Tuesday night. Trump's comments have since been rebuked by several political figures, including President Barack Obama.

On Thursday, Krebs walked the DWU students and faculty through the existing election process in South Dakota, a system revolving around the use of paper ballots instead of voting machines.

Krebs said the ballot is marked, enters a sealed ballot box and is then delivered to the county auditor's office. Once in the hands of the county auditors, the votes are tabulated by a machine that is not connected to the internet and the votes are uploaded manually by the auditor.

"So you can see the process is very secure," Krebs said. "Especially in South Dakota because we're not connected to the internet in any way."

Additionally, Krebs ensured those in attendance that the absentee voting process is also secure, saying the secretary of state's office checks and cross-references the signatures on absentee ballot requests.

Boosting the youth vote

Krebs also took to the college campus to encourage and educate potential voters in preparation of the Nov. 8 election. And Krebs said college-aged students are in need of some "public shaming."

According to Krebs, voter turnout in South Dakota is consistently high during presidential years, with two out of every three eligible voters registered. But, she said, 18- to 30-year-old South Dakotans had a relatively poor turnout in the most recent presidential election in 2012.

Krebs said the 18 to 30 age group voted at a rate of 36 percent in 2012, 10 percent lower than the national average for the same age group. Krebs said young voters in surrounding states also turned out at much higher numbers than South Dakotans.

While Krebs said many young South Dakotans have told Krebs they don't vote because they feel their vote doesn't count, Krebs said that stance isn't always accurate.

"Now, you may feel like that in a presidential race, however, when you get down to the rest of your ballot and you have a long ballot, there are some very, very important measures that impact your state to a great degree, including local elections that you really need to take into consideration," Krebs said.

After promoting the integrity of the election process in South Dakota and encouraging the youth vote, Krebs gave attendees a rundown of all 10 ballot questions in this year's election. And Alisha Vincent, executive director of the McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, thanked Krebs for making the trip to Mitchell to promote the democratic process.

"I think it's just a really valuable experience for our students to understand how our democracy works, and especially at the state level," Vincent said. "We hear a lot of rhetoric and things happening at the national level, and sometimes our students, they are disconnecting from that, so it's really important for them to hear from Secretary Krebs about how important their vote is at the state level and explain the process to them here."