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Facing big round of elections in 2017, SDRS opens way for using contractor

PIERRE -- Trustee elections are going to change for the South Dakota Retirement System. The SDRS board of trustees agreed Wednesday to let a contractor run the elections starting in 2017 and to permit electronic ballots. "What is before us next y...

PIERRE - Trustee elections are going to change for the South Dakota Retirement System.

The SDRS board of trustees agreed Wednesday to let a contractor run the elections starting in 2017 and to permit electronic ballots.

"What is before us next year is the largest election we've ever had," SDRS executive director Rob Wylie told the board.

"It has just become too large to handle internally," he added.

Traditionally the SDRS staff has conducted the elections. They mail ballots to thousands of SDRS members and count the ballots that members send back.

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One election this year was decided by a single vote by incumbent Eric Stroeder of Mobridge over Rachel Hearn of Pierre.

Wylie said there is a potential of 48,760 ballots to be handled in 2017 if every member participated.

Members select the trustees for their specific employment group.

As examples, there are approximately 8,200 state-employees members, approximately 13,500 teachers members, approximately 3,600 county-employees members and approximately 160 elected municipal officials members who can vote for their respective trustees in 2017.

There are also approximately 23,300 retirees members who will elect a trustee.

Wylie said the rule change provides "the option" of hiring a contractor and doesn't require a contractor every year.

He said there could be different methods for casting ballots such as traditional paper and digital access using a PIN number.

No one sent written comments or testified during the public hearing Wednesday.

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The estimated cost for the first year is $30,000. Subsequent years are estimated at $10,000.

Trustee K.J. Peterson of Rapid City didn't like the possibility that mail would be used to contact some members and emails would be used to contact others. She said emails shouldn't be used until all can be reached that way.

Trustee Louise Loban of Volga joined Peterson in voting against the email amendment.

"I'm concerned about having a split ballot also," Wylie said.

The rest of the rule changes won adoption 16-0.

The Legislature's Rules Review Committee will consider on Sept. 26 whether the board correctly followed the state process for rule making. If the legislative panel gives its clearance, the rules would take effect no sooner than at least 10 days later.

SDRS is a joint public-pension system representing employees of state government, county and city governments, public school districts and various other units of local government.

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