In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, South Dakota’s election officials have asked voters to consider voting by mail for the June primary. So far, the people are responding.
Approximately 2,100 requests have been made for absentee ballots in Davison County, according to Auditor Susan Kiepke on Tuesday. That’s the most for a primary election in the county since Kiepke started as the auditor in 2007.
The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office has sent absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the state. In Davison County, a dropbox has been set-up street-side to allow voters to drop off their ballots and absentee ballot applications without entering the courthouse.
We’re happy to see these actions being taken simply because it is the right thing to do and safely eliminates any concerns about contracting the virus.
When Wisconsin had its primary election on April 7, as many as 67 Wisconsin voters got COVID-19 after voting in-person or working at the polls, although a confirmed number of infections has not been clear because some people had other exposures, the Wisconsin Department of Health said last week.
Mail has a minuscule likelihood of spreading the virus, making it easily preferable to waiting in line with other individuals at the election polling place. We all should want to vote, and we should all want to do that as safely as possible.
Not everything about South Dakota’s absentee ballot process is perfect. It can be a cumbersome process. The absentee ballot application form fits a lot of different questions on one page, and the process includes verifying the person’s photo identification through email or through a copy machine.
Voters should also pay close attention to the instructions, which include having voters sign the back of their ballot envelope, as well, to verify its authenticity. Election officials then compare that signature to the one on the ballot application to make sure they match.
Those steps are there to make sure South Dakota voters know their election is being safeguarded and a ballot is being counted correctly. County officials in South Dakota cross-check voter rolls with other states, and regularly check on lists of those incarcerated, dead or illegal immigrants.
Despite what is touted by politicians and interest groups, voter fraud is not as widespread as they claim. And when South Dakota has had cases of voter fraud, they've been caught.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative interest group, has tried to tighten voting rights around the country, but its own online database shows just two cases of duplicate voting since 2005 in South Dakota. Two other cases of ballot petition fraud involving failed U.S. Senate candidates Clayton Walker and Annette Bosworth in 2015, were widely reported.
To date, rural South Dakota has mostly managed to keep the coronavirus under control. But one mass gathering that might change that is traditional, in-person voting, especially if social distancing guidelines aren’t followed.
South Dakotans never need to have an excuse to absentee vote. And nobody will be turned away from the physical polling locations on June 2. But voting by mail is a realistic alternative for all voters this year.