SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Discussion on the election process continues in Minnehaha County.
During last week’s Minnehaha County Commission meeting, District 2 House candidate John Sjaarda spoke about election issues in Valley Springs during the June 7 primary election. Sjaarda said people in Valley Springs were getting District 25 ballots instead of District 2 ballots.
District 2 is a newly created district by lawmakers during redistricting in 2021 that loops the towns of Brandon, Valley Springs and eastern Sioux Falls into a district. The old District 25 looped eastern Sioux Falls in with Valley Springs, Dell Rapids and Colton. Now, District 25 combines Garretson and Flandreau in with Dell Rapids and Colton.
Sjaarda said people who were trying to vote for him tried telling the poll workers they had the wrong ballots but their complaints were not answered.
Sjaarda, who finished first in a 4-way Republican primary, also said the Valley Springs precinct ran out of ballots at 4:30 p.m.
“They should know how many people there are registered to vote in Valley Springs and have enough ballots there,” Sjaarda said.
Sjaarda said a possible solution could be to have one legislative district in each precinct.
“I think we need to have better training for our poll workers,” Sjaarda told the five commissioners.
Longtime commissioner Jeff Barth said the issue has happened many times when there’s more than one legislative district voting at a certain precinct.
“Our auditors are having a hard time getting the staffing they need to run these elections,” Barth said. “Our legislature did nothing to help us on this when they drew these lines.”
Along with Sjaarda’s comments about Valley Springs, the election resolution board had to fix 21 ballots given to a precinct where District 9 and District 11 voters both vote.
Barth told KELOLAND News people should understand there’s more than 70 different precincts in Minnehaha County where there’s more than 126,000 registered voters.
“Everybody votes at their own precinct. What they vote for differs from precinct to precinct and it might differ within the precinct. That’s an issue,” Barth said. “That’s caused us problems in Minnehaha County.”
Barth, who has served as a county commissioner since 2007, pointed out he testified to the South Dakota Legislature’s redistricting committee about respecting precinct lines.
“There are 179 different ballot types in this county,” Barth said. “We certainly can use help making it a better system, but we could have used some help from the legislature as well.”
Barth admitted errors happen but he stressed that shouldn’t take away from a successful election. He said the county follows state rules that require a name and ID for every voter. Each voter uses a paper ballot that can be tracked for each person.
“I don’t believe there’s any sign of any corruption in our county,” Barth said. “We need good people to do good jobs and help their fellow citizens run a clean election.”
When asked about funding for elections, Barth said he believes there’s enough resources for all of the equipment and to make sure it is operating correctly.
He said most of the problems in recent elections have happened because of human error and he said elections aren’t poll workers’ regular jobs.
“They work one day a year and they have one day of training,” Barth said. “Then stuff happens and that stuff happens that’s unexpected.”
He said voters need to know if they registered to vote, where they are registered to vote and what party you register for.
He also said some people get set into their own views and nothing will change that. He said the best way to help the process is by getting involved. Barth is not seeking a fifth term
“Forget the conspiracies. Count the votes and help us get this job done,” Barth said. “We’ve got a big election coming up this November. We’ll see how it goes.”
After the Sioux Falls city election in April, Minnehaha County Auditor Ben Kyte told commissioners it should be easier for people to update their voter registration, including change of address. Kyte said he supports online voter registration and said South Dakota is one of only a few states that doesn’t allow online voter registration.
“We need to work with our legislators to make those changes,” Kyte said in April.
A bill in 2021 supported by Secretary of State Steve Barnett would have allowed voters the ability to update voter registrations online and register to vote online. It failed in a House committee. The full House of Representatives last year also defeated an appropriation to purchase an online voter-registration system.
A similar bill in 2022 failed in the same House committee.
Kyte lost the Republican primary for the auditor position to Leah Anderson.
On her campaign website, Anderson said she wants to use her 29 years of accounting experience to fix issues with “election integrity.”
This past weekend, Barnett lost the South Dakota GOP delegation nomination to run as secretary of state to Monae Johnson.
Johnson said she is opposed to online voting, online voter registration and online registration updates. She vowed to conduct post-election reviews.