Mailing-cost estimates might be added to absentee-ballot instructions for South Dakota

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Help might be on the way for South Dakota voters who aren’t sure about how much postage they need to send in their marked absentee ballots.

The state Board of Elections will consider requiring county auditors to show the estimated cost.

But the change wouldn’t take effect until after the November 2020 general election.

A public hearing on various proposed rules is scheduled for 1 p.m. CT August 19 in Pierre. The meeting is at the South Dakota Association of County Officials building at 211 E. Prospect Avenue.

People also can mail their comments to the Secretary of State, 500 E. Capitol Avenue, Pierre, SD, 57501. Those must be received before August 19 to be considered.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett said the postage estimate is to inform voters how much is needed to mail their ballots back to their county auditors.

“Some voters had questions concerning the amount of postage required during the primary election,” Barnett told KELOLAND News.

He said counties used various sizes of envelopes. With the rule change, each county’s auditor would insert the estimated amount for that specific county.

For the June primary, Barnett’s office tapped federal COVID-19 aid to mail to 546,899 registered voters a form that could be used to request an absentee ballot.

The postage estimate, if approved by the state board and cleared by the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee, would take effect December 1.

Why not for the November 3 general election? Absentee voting opens September 18.

“We do not want to change a form or process in the middle of an election cycle,” Barnett said. “Also along those lines, county auditors purchase the election forms, envelopes, et cetera, in bulk before the primary so they have enough for the general election as well.”

Barnett told a legislative committee earlier this summer that registered voters requested 112,222 absentee ballots for the June primary, compared to 23,146 in 2018 and 19,124 in 2016.

He said the costs came to about $325,000 for mailing, printing and design. More than 97,000 voters already have requested absentee ballots for November, according to Barnett.

Turnout overall was 28%, highest for a South Dakota primary since 2008; 58% of those were absentee.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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