PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Among the many adjustments the South Dakota Legislature made last month to state government’s current budget was adding $150,000 to the Secretary of State Office’s operational budget.
That’s so the office can move ahead with using $3 million from a 2018 federal election security grant that Congress approved, according to Kea Warne. She is deputy secretary for elections for Secretary of State Steve Barnett, who took office in early January.
Congress took the action in March 2018 after people from other nations such as Russia tried ways to influence the 2016 U.S. elections. Many states including South Dakota still needed approval from their legislatures before channeling the money toward greater election security.
“Our office has not spent any of those funds to date, as we asked for the Legislature to provide the five percent match money for the federal grant during the 2019 legislative session,” Warne said.
South Dakota’s lawmakers approved that $150,000 request as part of SB 180, which amended the 2019 general-appropriations act for state government. It becomes effective June 28. The 2020 state budget starts July 1, 2019.
“Our office has been approved by the federal Election Assistance Commission to spend the full $3 million on new election equipment for the counties,” Warne said.
The state Board of Elections discussed the topic June 18, 2018, with then-Secretary of State Shantel Krebs at the board’s only meeting last year.
As of that day, 29 of South Dakota’s 66 counties had purchased new voting equipment for the 2018 elections from federal Help America Vote Act funding that was already available from back in 2003.
Krebs advised the board there were several ways for South Dakota to obtain the 5 percent match to use the new money. One was to ask the Legislature for it.
Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 after the deadlock over the 2000 presidential election between Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore. The U.S. Supreme Court ended the dispute with a decision making Bush the nation’s president.
Members of Congress have drafted federal legislation since 2002 to include funding for elections, but the 2018 election security grant was the only one that passed and provided money to the states, according to Warne.
As of the September 30 end of the 2018 federal budget year, South Dakota still had 37 percent of its 2002 HAVA grant and interest earned on it available, according to a federal Election Assistance Commission report released April 4.
South Dakota’s percentage was fourth-highest in the nation, behind Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Tennessee.
Among South Dakota’s neighboring states, Wyoming was at 7 percent while Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Montana and North Dakota were at zero, according to the report.
One section of the 2002 federal law originally sent to South Dakota $5 million for improving administration of federal elections. Interest earnings as of September 30 totaled $2,385,195 while spending was $4,796,646. The balance on September 30 was $2,588,549.
South Dakota also originally received $13,028,257 in 2003 from the program section that distributed money based on each state’s percentage of the total U.S voting-age population. South Dakota had earned $5,107,300 interest as of September 30 and had spent $11,373,403, leaving a balance of $6,762,184..
The additional $3 million that South Dakota received last year had earned $30,649 as of September 30, the report said.