PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota voters can use the internet to check the accuracy of their registration information, but they have to go through county auditor offices or some other spot designated in law to actually register or change it. The state Board of Elections wants the Legislature to update the law, so that people could also adjust their data online.
A Senate panel gave its unanimous recommendation for the online approach Wednesday. SB 69 would let a registered voter, with a valid South Dakota driver license or ID card, electronically submit changes to the South Dakota Secretary of State office. The changes would then go to the voter’s county auditor.
Security would be “the top priority,” Secretary of State Steve Barnett assured the Senate State Affairs Committee. He’s chairman of the elections board. “This legislation was drafted with security as the main focus,” Barnett said.
The history of voting rights in South Dakota can be confusing. State law puts county auditors in “complete charge” of voter registration. But another state law requires county auditors to submit registrations to the secretary of state for compilation of a computerized master list. Yet a third law says the county auditor prevails in case of a discrepancy.
Likewise for recent attempts at online voter registration and online changes. Last year, the Senate approved legislation allowing voters to update registration information online, but a House committee blocked it. The full House of Representatives last year also defeated an appropriation to purchase an online voter-registration system. The previous year, a Senate committee wouldn’t back allowing voters to register online, after the House had passed the legislation.
Senator Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, was the only committee member to speak on the latest bill Wednesday. He said lawmakers should make it easier for voters to keep registrations current. “This bill is user friendly for our taxpayers in South Dakota,” Schoenbeck said. “Step into the modern age.”
Lobbyists for AARP South Dakota and Dakota Rural Action testified in support. No one spoke against it.
The lack of opposition didn’t convince the committee’s chairman, Senate Republican leader Gary Cammack of Union Center, to schedule the bill for the Senate consent calendar, which is how committees can handle a routine piece of legislation that doesn’t draw any ‘no’ votes.
Instead, the bill is set for consideration Thursday afternoon. “And we’ll talk about it on the floor,” Cammack said.