In-person satellite voting varies widely in S.D. counties

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota panel that oversees a federal election-assistance program doesn’t require consistency from counties when they receive aid to operate in-person satellite voting centers.

The state Help America Vote Act Grant Board recommended approval Monday of applications from five counties to operate satellite centers for early voting during the 2020 primary and general elections.

South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett, who attended the board meeting, will decide by November 1.

Kea Warne, deputy secretary of state for elections, said county auditors work with county commissioners to determine how many hours and days to operate the satellite centers.

State law allows up to 46 days of early voting for a primary and the same number for a general election.

In 2018, some counties used the full periods for their centers, while others were open less frequently.

That will be true for the 2020 cycle, too, based on applications the grant board reviewed Monday.

Buffalo County requested $8,441.88 to train workers and run a voting center at Fort Thompson on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday in May and October.

Dewey County asked for $6,500, but the board recommended actual estimated expenses totaling $6,005.60, to operate a voting center at Eagle Butte on Mondays through Fridays for two weeks before each of the primary and general elections.

Jackson County was recommended for $23,096 to use at the Wanblee voting center for 35 business days before the primary election and 35 days before the general.

Jackson County’s request was for $15,421. The county is under a memorandum of understanding through 2022 and might need an exception for the 2022 cycle.

Oglala Lakota County was recommended for $20,349.03, as requested, to pay people to work at the Pine Ridge voting center in May and June, covering all of the primary voting period, and in October and November for all of the general.

Todd County was recommended for $4,805.85 to pay expenses and salary of a poll worker for 192 hours, spread across May and June for the primary, and across October and November for the general.

Fall River County administers the Oglala Lakota County elections. Tripp County handles the Todd County elections.

“I thought they were all very fair numbers,” Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said after the discussions finished. He is a state board member.

“Make no mistake, it is spendy per vote,” Litz added. “I think we’re doing the right thing.”

Congress passed the Help America Vote Act following the deadlocked 2000 presidential election that the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of the Republican nominee George W. Bush.

Two other counties operated satellite voting centers in 2018 but have sufficient money in their HAVA accounts to pay for them. Pennington County ran centers at Wall and Hill City, while Lawrence County did in Spearfish.

The state board Monday also recommended additional HAVA funding of $9,000 apiece for some counties to offset most or all of other eligible estimated 2020-election expenses. They qualified because they had zeroed out their county HAVA balances.

Those counties are Brule, Davison, Fall River, Hughes, Jackson, Meade, McCook, Oglala Lakota, Potter, Sully, Todd, Tripp, Union and Yankton.

Other recommendations included Sanborn $6,350 and Ziebach $8,100.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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