S.D. Legislature will be asked again for an internet-based system to register voters

Capitol News Bureau

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.

SD Legislative session 2021

The South Dakota Legislature is established by Article III of the Constitution of South Dakota as a bicameral legislative body. Legislative Sessions can run for up to 40 days every year, depending on the legislative calendar set by the Legislature.

The 2021 Legislative Session will begin Tuesday, January 12, 2021, and ends Monday, March 29, 2021, to complete a 37-day session. During the Session, the Legislature will be in recess beginning Friday, March 12, through Friday, March 26.



The Senate consists of 35 Senators (32 Republicans, 3 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 25 or more than 35 members.

You can find a complete list of Senators Legislators at sdlegislature.gov.

The House consists of 70 Representatives (62 Republicans, 8 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 50 or more than 75 members. Districts 26 and 28 have been subdivided into two House districts to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

You can find a complete list of House Legislators at sdlegislature.gov.

An example of a bill — Senate Bill 1 for SD Leg 2021.

A bill is simply an idea that someone would like to see become law. It could be anything from the penalty for committing a crime to the amount of money that can be spent on a state program. The idea can come from anyone, but only a Representative or Senator can take that idea and guide it to final passage through the State Legislature.

Following the introduction and first reading of a bill in either house, the presiding officer assigns the bill to a committee based on the subject matter. Generally, bills dealing with certain subjects are assigned to the same committee.

The South Dakota Legislative Research Council, a nonpartisan professional staff for lawmakers, prepares legislative drafts and provides professional staff to standing committees and individual legislators for technical advice and research.

SD Legislative Session COVID-19 protocols

  • Masks in spaces under the jurisdiction of the S.D. Senate and S.D. House.
  • Limited seating in the Senate and House galleries.
  • PPE for members and staff.
  • Encouraging remote testifying and digital documents. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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