PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — People concerned about accurate election results in South Dakota will soon have a better idea of the amounts that county governments can be reimbursed for various duties performing post-election audits.
A detailed schedule was among the new rules that the state Board of Elections approved Wednesday during a four-hour public hearing.
The Legislature earlier this year required that South Dakota’s 66 counties start performing post-election audits, starting with the 2024 contests. South Dakota Secretary of State Monae Johnson then gathered a variety of county and state officials to help develop proposed rules.
One of the new law’s requirements is that the secretary of state must reimburse counties for expenses on post-election audits. The advisory panel’s recommendations however weren’t specific on that point.
County auditors from across the state recently submitted a joint letter with their suggestions, including specific reimbursements. The Board of Elections worked from the letter Wednesday to set the amounts.
For example, the state board decided that people who serve on the post-election audit boards should each receive at least the minimum wage and up to $25 per hour per day for conducting the audit and for training.
Among other allowable expenses:
- Each county can be paid up to $200 for supplies, including postage, for a post-election audit.
- Rental costs up to $250 per day.
- Travel and meal reimbursements at state per-diem rates.
- Auditor and auditor’s staff actual wages for hours spent training and assisting the post-election audit board.
It will be up to each county auditor and county board of commissioners to decide how much to submit in the various categories, and county auditors must provide proof of paid invoices to the secretary of state.
The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee will consider the board’s entire rules package at its final meeting of the year on November 7. What the six lawmakers decide will determine whether the rules take effect or the board needs to further consider them.
The reimbursement rule as originally proposed said, “Reimbursable expenses for the audit, include but are not limited to: board member pay for conducting the audit and for training prior to the audit (if applicable), supplies, rental costs for the location to conduct the audit in, publication costs, ballot storage costs, travel (mileage), etc.”
State election coordinator Rachel Soulek said the Legislative Research Council during its review of the proposed rules made a variety of suggestions including on reimbursement levels.
“Definitely in favor of getting reimbursed for these expenses,” Minnehaha County Leah Anderson told the board.
Board member John Lake of Gettysburg said estimates varied a lot and the board will need to see the actual costs after the 2024 audits are done. He said the reimbursement levels might need to be revisited. “I’m rambling about the headache this whole thing is going to cause,” Lake said.
The revised proposal had called for $250 pay per day per person, but another board member, McPherson County Auditor Lindley Howard, said that dollars-per-hour might be a better parameter so there would be more consistency. “There could be a big difference in hours that a person is putting in,” Howard said.
During a discussion of the rule requiring a post-election audit certificate, board member Mike Buckingham of Rapid City said the audit board shouldn’t know the county’s election results before completing the post-election audit. What’s still unclear in the event of a discrepancy is when the auditor can release the post-election audit board members from their duties. He said the summer work group didn’t address it. “At some point, you have to determine whether the auditing board did its job accurately,” Buckingham said.
Board member Scott McGregor of Rapid City agreed. “I don’t know what they do if it never aligns,” he said.
The question needs to be answered, according to state election coordinator Soulek. “I think it’s something we’ll have to make a note of to address with another rule,” she said.