SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In his first 10 months serving as Minnehaha County’s auditor, Ben Kyte has been busy.
Roughly one year from now, Kyte expects to be even busier as the 2022 midterm elections will be taking place. Kyte, who was appointed to the position after Bob Litz resigned, is in charge of the accounting functions of the state’s biggest county along with elections, which he said only make up about 20% of what his office deals with on a day-to-day basis.
“We have a growing county,” Kyte told KELOLAND News. “We are trying to provide services to a growing population. It’s busy and we haven’t even got into the election cycle for the auditor’s office.”
In preparation of next year’s primary and midterm elections, Kyte and his staff have been touring polling places in Sioux Falls. He also plans to tour rural polling places throughout the county.
“I’ve spent this last year really investing in the election process,” said Kyte, who retired from Citibank after 37 years in February 2020. “There’s a tremendous amount of detail that needs to be taken care of with these elections.”
According to Minnehaha County’s budget recaps, the auditor’s election’s budget increased from $371,414 in 2018 to $830,230 in 2022.
Kyte said the Minnehaha County Commission agreed to a remodel for the county admin building which will include “an election space” for people to come and vote absentee. The extra space will also help Kyte’s staff to better manage absentee votes.
“We’ve also worked with the Secretary of State’s office in Pierre to acquire equipment that’s going to allow us to process absentee ballots more efficiently,” Kyte said. “We’ve gone to some training in Pierre for a couple days on the election process and that was very good.”
In 2020, there was a record amount of absentee ballots cast both in Minnehaha County and statewide. There were more than 41,000 absentee ballots, which was about 45% of the 93,425 total ballots cast.
“The pandemic created some of those needs,” Kyte said. “We think that (high absentee voting) will continue.”
Kyte highlighted the importance of election workers and volunteers. He said anyone interested in helping work during future elections can find a signup link on the auditor’s website.
“There’s going to be a challenge to get people to help us,” Kyte said. “We’ll need new workers to help us. It will be a challenge and we’ll try to get ahead of that.”
Ahead of next year’s elections, Kyte said voters can register to vote anytime at the auditor’s office or when people renew driver’s licenses. He encouraged all voters to visit the Secretary of State’s website to check current voter registration information.
With the redistricting process happening in 2021, Kyte said once the new districts are official, some voters may find themselves in new districts, but there’s no action required.
“The most important thing for a voter, in my opinion, is to get informed,” Kyte said. “Understand the issues, understand the candidates and then make sure you are registered to vote.”
Working with a staff of 10 people, Kyte said in his first year as county auditor has gone well. He said he’s built a strong team and has a good understanding of the finances of the county.
“I’m very happy that I was chosen,” Kyte said. “I think I’ve added some value to the county.”