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Republicans Resign Over Questionable Absentee Ballot Applications

October 11, 2004, 10:00 PM by Jodi Schwan

Tonight six people connected with the South Dakota republican party have resigned over questions surrounding absentee ballot applications.

The state director of the Republican Victory Program, Larry Russell is one of them, along with state republican party employee Eric Fahrendorf. Four independent contractors involved with the absentee ballot applications also resigned. They are Joe Alick, Nathan Mertz, Todd Schlekeway and Rachel Hoff.

Hoff was the notary whose signature and seal appeared on many applications from KELOLAND college students. But several students say only men were there when they filled out the forms.

Mount Marty student Cassandra Herout says, "All I know is they were gonna have the form notarized or audited or something before they sent it in. She was never present at all."

Now the party has a lot of paperwork to sort out.

Many absentee ballot applications are what led to a half dozen resignations. The people involved in securing the forms may not have always made sure a commissioned notary witnessed the voters' signatures.

In a statement, party executive director Jason Glodt says, "The South Dakota Republican Party has a zero tolerance policy regarding such matters, and on Friday and Saturday of last week accepted the resignations of the four independent contractors who were involved in the handling of absentee ballot requests"

The party also accepted Larry Russell's resignation. Russell was defeated by Larry Diedrich in the republican primary this winter in the race for Congress. Since then he's been directing the party's "get out the vote" efforts.

But the party says students who filled out these applications should still be able to vote.

Glodt says, "It is our understanding that because all of the information submitted by the voters is true and correct, all of the ballots will be counted. We are taking additional steps to ensure that each of these legitimate requests are counted."

In the next few days, GOP party members will contact each voter who requested an absentee ballot through the party. They will ask for photocopies of their IDs as a legal alternative to notarization.

Glodt says, "Because absentee ballots do not require notarization, it is unfortunate that these questions have diverted attention from legitimate requests by qualified voters."

Glodt says the party has been in contact with the secretary of state and attorney general and will cooperate with their investigation.



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