SD, local officials ask public: ‘Please, vote by mail’
Amid a historic pandemic, South Dakota election officials are promoting the state’s absentee ballot by mail option as its recommended method to conduct the June 2 primary election.
That includes sending an absentee ballot application to every South Dakotan who is already registered for the upcoming election.
“We are highly encouraging everyone to vote by mail,” Davison County Auditor Susan Kiepke said Tuesday. “It’s just safer. … We can’t mandate that, but we’re making that request.”
Kiepke has outlined the step-by-step instructions to receive a ballot and to vote by mail. (Complete instructions to receive an absentee ballot are located with this article.)
“Ensuring every South Dakota voter has access to exercise their right to vote is the goal of all election officials in our state,” South Dakota Secretary of State Barnett said late last week. “In response to the current pandemic, we are encouraging all South Dakotans to utilize our state’s absentee vote-by-mail option for our upcoming elections. Absentee ballot applications will be mailed to each registered voter at the mailing address listed on their voter registration form.”
Exceptions for the automatic mailings include voters who have already applied for the 2020 election cycle or voters in counties sending applications on their own.
Absentee ballot applications are set to arrive between April 17 and April 24. Voters are encouraged to complete their application as soon as possible to allow for delivery and processing times. Once an application is verified by the county auditor, a ballot will be mailed to the voter.
The pandemic will also move the primary election site in Davison County for safety reasons. Currently, Gov. Kristi Noem has asked for social distancing to continue through May 31, and the pandemic is currently forecasted to peak in June, as the election is scheduled to take place.
The entire primary election will be held at the Davison County Fairgrounds on the west edge of Mitchell. Kiepke said all Davison County voters will vote at that location, which allows for the direction of traffic, the ability to mark the floors of the building for social distancing between voters and will provide plenty of space, with as much as 25,000 square feet available to use.
“Hopefully, there won’t be many people voting in-person,” Kiepke said.
Kiepke said she will also be looking for younger election workers and smaller election boards than normal, down to three instead of five. Ideally, she said, they would find some teachers and college students to participate in the process of helping with election work.
“Nothing against the older gals and guys, but I just don’t want to expose them, if at all possible,” she said.
Meeting by teleconference, Kiepke and the Davison County Commission on Tuesday discussed setting up a secure box outside the courthouse or another county facility for voters to drop-off ballots in a drive-thru fashion. A physical location has not been finalized, but Kiepke said that method would be preferred, because it would limit an individual’s physical contact with others and would be accessible to those with disabilities.
“This voting is going to get very interesting,” Commission Chairwoman Brenda Bode said. “I do commend you, Susan, for taking a proactive lead for coming up with the most workable plan we can.”
According to the Secretary of State's office, South Dakotans cast 22,048 absentee ballots in the 2018 primary election, accounting for 15.6 percent of the total number of ballots cast in the election. Ninety-five percent of the absentee ballots requested by voters were returned.
In the 2016 primary -- which was the last to involve a presidential race -- 13.9 percent of the ballots were cast through absentee voting.
How to vote by mail in South Dakota
With election officials asking the public to vote by absentee ballot by mail during the 2020 primary, potential voters will want to re-familiarize themselves with the process of voting away from the traditional polling places.
In Davison County, here are the steps to receive an absentee ballot. (The steps can be replicated in other South Dakota counties by contacting your local county auditor.):
No. 1: Request an absentee ballot form
There are five ways to receive the form to request an absentee ballot:
You can download the form to request a ballot from sdsos.gov
You can download the form to request a ballot from davisoncounty.org
You can pick up the form to request a ballot in the foyer of the Davison County Courthouse
You can call the Davison County Auditor’s office at 605-995-8608 and they will mail you the form to request a ballot
You can mail a letter to the Davison County Auditor, 200 E. 4th Ave., Mitchell, SD 57301, including in the letter your name, your signature, your voter registration address and the address you wish the ballot to be mailed to.
No. 2: Fill out the form and have it authenticated
Once you have the form to request an absentee ballot, fill out the form and take any one of the following four options:
Have your signature notarized.
Attach a copy of a photo ID.
Email a copy of your photo ID to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Text your photo ID to 605-656-1269.
Please note: The form requires an original signature on the request for an absentee ballot, and emailed or faxed request forms are not accepted. Photo ID verification is only accepted for the non-notary options listed above.
No. 3: Return the absentee ballot form
Once you have the form to request an absentee ballot filled out and signed using one of the four options regarding signature/notarization/photo ID, return it under the following options:
Mail the completed form/letter to request an absentee ballot to the Davison County Auditor, 200 E. 4th Ave., Mitchell, S.D., 57301
Drop the form to request an absentee ballot in the secure box labeled “Absentee Voting Requests” located in the foyer of the Davison County Courthouse.
Once county officials have received the complete, signed application, either notarized or via photo ID, a ballot will be mailed to you.
No. 4: Return your mailed ballot
Once you have received and voted your ballot, either:
Mail your ballot to the Davison County Auditor, 200 E. 4th Ave., Mitchell, S.D., 57301, or
Drop your voted ballot in the locked, secured ballot box labeled “Absentee Ballot Box,” located in the front of the Davison County Courthouse.