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Absentee voting kicks off Friday

Eager South Dakota voters will have their first crack at the general election ballot starting Friday. In South Dakota, registered voters who can't make it to their polling place on Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. can file an absentee ballot applicat...

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Eager South Dakota voters will have their first crack at the general election ballot starting Friday.

In South Dakota, registered voters who can't make it to their polling place on Nov. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. can file an absentee ballot application to their county auditor's office. In Davison County, residents can visit the Davison County Courthouse at 200 E. Fourth Ave. to file their absentee ballot beginning Friday.

And Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke told the Davison County Commission on Tuesday that the courthouse will likely see a heavy amount of absentee voters walk through its doors between Friday and Election Day.

"We'll have as many booths set up as we can, because I believe we're going to be very, very busy," Kiepke said.

Kiepke said polling stations will be set up in the former county commission chamber, located next to the auditor's office on the first floor of the courthouse, and also in the courthouse hall to accommodate absentee voters.

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Once at the polling station, Davison County voters will have their hands full with a four-page ballot. Sample ballots can be found on the South Dakota Secretary of State's website, and the first contest Davison County will see is the race for U.S. president.

South Dakotans will have the opportunity to support, in order of appearance on the ballot, Republican nominee Donald Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, Democrat Hillary Clinton or Constitution Party nominee Darrell Castle.

Voters will also have the opportunity to give Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune a third term in office or throw their support behind political newcomer Jay Williams, a Yankton Democrat.

For South Dakota's sole spot in the U.S. House of Representatives, three-term Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem will square off with Democratic State Sen. Paula Hawks, of Hartford.

Before reaching a full slate of ballot initiatives, Davison County voters will have a chance to vote for one statewide post and for a maximum of three candidates to represent the local district in the state Legislature.

South Dakota Public Utilities Commission Chairman and White Lake native Chris Nelson, a Republican, looks to retain his position on the statewide energy regulation board in a race against Democrat Henry Red Cloud, of Pine Ridge.

Of the two state legislative races, one has effectively been decided. With only two candidates for the two seats in the South Dakota House of Representatives for District 20 - which represents Aurora, Davison and Jerauld counties - incumbent State Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, and former State Rep. Lance Carson, also a Mitchell Republican, face no competition for the two seats in Pierre.

In the District 20 State Senate race, which will be vacated by term-limited State Sen. Mike Vehle, Republican State Rep. Joshua Klumb, of Mount Vernon, will appear on the ballot against former State Rep. Quinten Burg, a Democrat from Wessington Springs.

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Like all voters statewide, Davison County's registered voters will see five Constitutional Amendments, three Initiated Measures and two Referred Laws on their ballot. And because of the large amount of ballot questions, Kiepke said election costs are expected to rise.

"The one thing that we all learned was that our first budgets for election are going to be way over," said Kiepke, referring to what she learned at the South Dakota County Convention last week.

The Constitutional Amendments include a plan to remove the state's four technical institutes from under the authority of the Board of Regents, an amendment to expand the rights of harassment and abuse victims, a rule change to shift legislative redistricting authority from the Legislature to a redistricting commission and an amendment to set a new 18 percent rate cap on lenders. Another amendment would eliminate party affiliation from the ballot and open the June primary to all voters.

The three Initiated Measures include a proposal to prohibit state-licensed money lenders from issuing a loan imposing total interest, fees and charges at a rate greater than 36 percent, a plan to revise the state campaign financing and lobbying laws while creating a publicly funded campaign finance program and a measure to allow corporate organizations and nonprofit groups the right to charge fees for any service provided.

The two Referred Laws would change the timeframe to file nominating petitions for elections and lower the state minimum wage for non-tipped employees under the age of 18.

An information pamphlet with an explanation and letter of support and opposition for each question can be accessed on the Secretary of State website.

Despite the loaded ballot, South Dakota voters won't have any extra time at the polling place to make up their mind.

"The law is the law, I believe the law says 10 minutes," Kiepke said.

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Not only does state law prohibit voters from spending more than 10 minutes at a voting booth or machine, no voter is permitted re-entry into an enclosed polling space.

Voters who do not utilize the in-person absentee location must return their absentee ballot application to a county election official no later than 5 p.m. on Nov. 7. South Dakotans have until 15 days before the election to register to vote.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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