Absent from the election day polls but still voting in big numbers

KELOLAND.com Original
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — More than 17,000 people were expected to have used absentee ballots in this year’s city and school district combined election in Sioux Falls, said Tom Greco, the Sioux Falls City Clerk.

That’s more than five times the number of people who voted through absentee ballot in the 2018 combined election, according to election results posted on the city of Sioux Falls website.

But this election had the coronavirus pandemic feature, which meant more people were compelled to vote by absentee ballot because of health and safety concerns, election officials said.

The combined election area is keeping pace with the rest of South Dakota.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, 88,911 absentee ballots have been received statewide, said Rachel Soulek of the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.

“This number far outpaces the average absentee ballots cast in previous primary elections,” Soulek said.

State voters cast 89,329 absentee ballots in the 2018 general election. General elections generally have higher number of absentee votes than do primary elections, Soulek said.

Locally, in the 2018 combined election, there were 3,195 absentee ballots of a total 32,166 votes, which means 28,971 people voted in person.

The 17,000 absentee votes is about 5,000 less than the 22,048 absentee votes cast in all of South Dakota in the June 5, 2018, primary election.

The 22,048 absentee votes in June 2018 were the highest number for a primary election since 2010, Soulek said.

The state highlighted the absentee voting alternative to voters during the pandemic, Soulek said.

“The focus on absentee ballots also potentially relieved some pressure on polling sites across the state on Election Day,” Soulek said. “Having both methods available provided our state’s voters the choice to exercise their right to vote in the manner most comfortable to them.”    

The city of Sioux Falls election updates show that 13,421 people voted on election day.

As of 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, the city website reported 5,439 absentee ballots had been cast and counting was continuing based on 23 of 67 precincts with absentee early precinct reporting. All 67 precincts were reported as partially reported and none were fully reported.

Until the final count is in, it’s too soon to know if absentee ballots increased the overall voting totals from 2018 but if at least 17,000 people voted by absentee ballot, it would be lower at 30,421.

Absentee vote totals for each combined election since 2010 are not listed by the city or Minnehaha County.

In 2012, when absentee ballots for each candidate in a school board race and four city council races are added, 3,963 people voted by absentee ballot. The school board race had four candidates. The at-large city council race had three candidates. There were three candidates for the council seat in the Southwest and two each in the Northwest and Northeast Districts.

While there was at least 3,900 absentee ballots, the election drew 13,700 voters or 14.28% of the area’s 95,956 registered voters.

Although the number of registered voters has increased each combined election, this year the number of registered voters for the combined election declined to 88,307 from 105,470 in 2018, according to the city’s website.

But overall, the number of registered voters has increased for each combined election since 2010 but voting totals haven’t always followed suit.

The area had 92,604 registered voters in 2010 and 29,780 votes were cast. In 2016 and 2012, total votes were less than 14,000 each year but the voting area had 113,264 registered voters in 2016 and 95,956 registered voters in 2012. The 2014 combined election drew 31,980 voters. But while there were 114, 264 registered voters in 2016, 12,826 people voted in the combined election.

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