One site planned again for Davison County in general election
Fewer than nine weeks out from the general election, Davison County intends to replicate its plans from the June primary election once more.
But that means there will be one physical voting location on Nov. 3 for the county’s 11,000-plus registered voters to cast ballots in the election.
The Davison County Commission approved Auditor Susan Kiepke’s routine request Tuesday to combine precincts for the Nov. 3 general election. But Kiepke said the county’s residents will once again vote in one location: the Davison County Fairgrounds on the west side of Mitchell. That was after consultation with Deputy State’s Attorney Jim Taylor, Kiepke said, with the goal of making voting as safe as possible considering COVID-19 precautions.
“The numbers are not going down,” Kiepke said, with regards to the active case count in Davison County. “In order to maintain safety and to best manage the facility where we’ve having the election, it makes sense to hold everything at the fairgrounds.”
Kiepke said absentee voting is shaping up to be a big part of the county’s general election proceedings. She said 2,500 ballots are queued and prepared to be sent out to voters on Sept. 16, when the state’s absentee voting window opens and her office is receiving 20 to 30 absentee ballot requests each day.
During the last general election with a presidential race on the ballot in 2016, Davison County had 8,177 ballots cast, with a turnout of 71%. If turnout ends up being the same in 2020, that means about 30 percent of the voters are already planning to vote via absentee ballot.
During the 2016 general election, Davison County had five voting locations: the Fairgrounds, the Corn Palace, the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy, the Ethan Town Hall and Mount Vernon Senior Citizens Center.
Kiepke said she is concerned about the rising case count in South Dakota and in Davison County, where there were 32 active cases, as of Wednesday. The state’s active case count is 2,875 people with COVID-19.
“My employees, they have no choice but to work the election,” Kiepke said. “They have to be there and work the election. (Individuals) can go to another county to renew their driver’s registration. You can’t go to another county to vote. You can’t go to another county to get your absentee ballot. … It is very stressful.”
There was little objection from the commissioners about the single site for the election. Commissioner Randy Reider said the county needs to continue stressing to employees and visitors that guidelines to defend against the coronavirus need to be followed, acknowledging things can become lax. Commissioner Brenda Bode said conducting county duties during the pandemic will need to continue onward.
“This is the day-to-day operations we’re going to live with,” she said. “This is how we’re going to have to continue to do business. … We all remember that they said it’s going to peak in June. Guess what? That didn’t really work that way. We’re going to have peaks and valleys.”
2021 budget gets initial approval
The Davison County budget is slated to be increased slightly in 2021, as the county has approved its preliminary budget.
The county’s 2021 budget checks in at $14.76 million, or 2.07% above last year’s budget approved at the same time of $14.46 million. The county commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve the budget, which will be considered at the end of September for finalization.
The county’s funds for road and bridge construction projects are taking on a larger share in 2021. Davison County has allocated $4.67 million toward the Highway Department’s budget next year. It is a 35% share of the expected 2021 budget, up from 30% in 2020, when it was $4.26 million.
That comes as the county has more planned bridge work in 2021, including in response to the damage caused by flooding conditions in 2019. Commissioner John Claggett said staying on the county’s five-year highway plan is essential for laying out how funding will be allocated and spent.
Other large shares of the county’s budget include the jail, which is estimated at $1.99 million, down 7.2% from 2019. The state’s attorney’s office budget is $625,072, while the county-appointed public attorney budget is at $627,000.
That budget figure is without figuring in any potential raises for employees, which is generally decided at the end of the calendar year.