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OPINION: Despite a snafu, counties sticking with vote centers

PIERRE -- Eight counties using electronic poll books had difficulties during June elections. Officials sent explanations or testified at the state Board of Elections meeting Monday.

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PIERRE - Eight counties using electronic poll books had difficulties during June elections. Officials sent explanations or testified at the state Board of Elections meeting Monday.

The Legislature authorized vote centers and e-poll books for school board elections in 2010 and later expanded to all elections.

Here are excerpts from some of the letters defending vote centers where any registered voter in a county can cast a ballot.

Maxine Fischer, Brown County auditor: "Granted, we had issues on Tuesday, June 5, 2018, but we did not have issues in 2014 or 2016.

"I am not sure what the connectivity issue was, but do know that our main issue was the fact that some of our older registrations do not have registration dates in Total Vote and that is what BPro used when generating the E-Pollbook files."

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Fischer said her staff looked up names when vote-center officials called and told them the ballots to use. (BPro was software vendor for the eight counties.)

Patty Hojem, Yankton County auditor: "People from outside town who work in Yankton can now vote during the day rather than take up their family time in the evening. There's never any doubt where you can vote. It probably helps to increase voter participation.

"There are bound to be technological challenges with anything new. But we didn't quit driving tractors and go back to horses when the first tractor overheated. Electronic poll books have already been a big plus in our county and it will only get better."

Jane Naylor, Hughes County finance officer: "I don't feel that one incident should be the reason to take away the use of epoll books or vote centers. Going back to precincts would only confuse the voters who are accustomed to voting at any location.

"I agree that a printed copy of the voter registration list is a good idea to have available at each vote center."

Vicki Buseth, Brookings County finance officer: "I feel all counties have an aging population that is working at the polling locations and have a hard time getting election workers.

"The E-Pollbook system has improved these difficulties due to the ease of the system for the workers and the general public."

Marilyn Ring, Hyde County auditor: "We had a paper pollbook and printed registration list at our Vote Center for the Primary on June 5, 2018. We were able to continue without delay when we had an issue with our printers."

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Ring wrote that Hyde had "minimal problems" despite three different vendors in three election cycles.

Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson told the board she wouldn't use electronic poll books this November. She kept 16 precincts open past the standard 7 p.m., including three to 8:45 p.m.

The board voted 6-1 to ask legislators next year to require vote centers and precincts to have paper copies of voter registration lists and poll books to record voters.

Meanwhile Secretary of State Shantel Krebs wants backup plans from all counties for the Nov. 6 general election.

The good news for counties: They can still choose.

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