South Dakota agencies weren’t adequately helping people register to vote

Capitol News Bureau
KELO Pierre Capitol building legislature

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Several of South Dakota’s state government departments were out of compliance with parts of the National Voter Registration Act this year, a panel of state lawmakers heard Thursday.

Oliver Semans told the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee that South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett was notified in a May 20 letter. Semans is a co-executive director for Four Directions, a group that represents Native Americans on voting rights.

Kea Warne, director of elections in Barnett’s office, said changes have since been made to application forms for South Dakota driver licenses and to forms used by the state Department of Social Services.

Warne said driver-licensing staff are being trained, and the state Department of Human Services and the state Department of Health also made changes.

“We reached out to all of them and had multiple conference calls,” Warne said.

Semans said South Dakota wasn’t complying with section 5 and section 7 of the NVRA. Section 5 requires driver-license offices to offer voter registration. Section 7 requires voter-registration services to be offered by any state office offering public assistance or is primarily engaged in offering services to persons with disabilities.

Semans said the problems potentially affected all citizens. He said Barnett hadn’t brought the non-compliance letter to the attention of the state Board of Elections. “We don’t think the information has been shared with anybody,” Semans said 

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