PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Just weeks after prompting the Legislature as a safety measure to cast votes remotely for the first time, the coronavirus COVID-19 is leading to another first, in the way South Dakota holds its statewide elections, for the same reason.
Secretary of State Steve Barnett is mailing absentee-ballot applications to almost every registered voter in South Dakota for the June primary elections. Local auditors are taking the responsibility in Douglas, Meade and Perkins counties.
The only voters who won’t get the forms are those who have already requested absentee ballots.
Absentee voting opens Friday, April 17, for South Dakota’s June 2 primaries. The last day to register to vote in the primaries is May 18.
While this is the first time the state elections staff will do a mass mailing, the absentee service has been available for many decades in South Dakota.
“Voters have had the ability to complete the absentee ballot application and vote absentee-by-mail in past elections by contacting their county auditor or downloading the form off of the Secretary of State website,” said Jason Lutz, South Dakota’s deputy secretary of state.
If the application form is not completed and submitted to the county auditor, the voter will not receive an absentee ballot, Lutz noted.
Lutz said the Secretary of State office hasn’t issued a public-service announcement for the mail-out at this point. He said any PSA that’s aired has been independently made and didn’t receive any funding from the secretary of state office.
“On a related note, the secretary (Barnett) does plan to record some messages concerning this program, as well as the absentee-by-mail program in general in the near future,” Lutz said.