PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Of the 50 states, South Dakota is one of nine without online voter registration. The state Board of Elections tried last year to get authority from the Legislature, but the quest died after a Senate hearing.
Now the board is trying again, this time offering a more specific proposal to South Dakota lawmakers. The Senate State Affairs Committee has agreed to sponsor Senate Bill 24.
That’s the same committee where Republican senators stopped HB 1050 in March on a party-line vote. The bill had made it through the House 41-26, with only Republicans opposing it.
Secretary of State Steve Barnett, a Republican whose office helps coordinate South Dakota elections, is the board’s chair.
Legislative leaders appoint the six other board members. Among them are Clay County Auditor Carri Crum and Grant County Auditor Karen Layher. They represent county auditors who run elections.
Some of Barnett’s staff would oversee the proposed new system, but county auditors would handle all of the information at the local level.
The 2021 version tries to answer questions lawmakers asked last year. Kea Warne, director of the state elections division in Barnett’s office, said Friday that people could use the online system to register to vote or update their current voter registration.
The potential advantages for counties are increased accuracy and possible cost-savings because less in-person assistance would be needed.
Warne said security would be the top priority. To register online, a person would need a valid South Dakota driver license or non-driver ID card issued by the state Department of Public Safety. She said the county auditor would take the same verification steps whether the form was online or on paper.
Those include checking the information against state Department of Health death records, state Unified Judicial System records to ensure the person isn’t serving a sentence for a felony, DPS records and federal Social Security Administration records.
If all four of the validations match, Warne said the federal National Voter Registration Act requires that the county auditor must next send that person an acknowledgement card.
If that card is returned undeliverable, the county auditor must send out a confirmation notice, according to Warne, and if both of those are returned undeliverable, that person won’t be registered to vote.
This step helps to ensure the person is located at the residence listed, she said.
On the other hand, if any of the information does not match, that voter won’t be added to the voter file. She said the federal law requires that the county auditor send an ‘incomplete / invalid’ notice to the person who is attempting to register to vote.
The ‘incomplete / invalid’ card informs that person that if she or he doesn’t provide the corrected or missing information within 30 days, the person won’t be registered to vote, according to Warne.
The new legislation also would require the applicant to agree to the use of the signature from his or her driver license or nondriver identification card.
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