SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — The democratic process has been a ‘moving experience’ for the Minnehaha County auditor’s office in recent years. The pandemic closed the County Administration Building, so absentee voters had to cast their ballots in the 2020 elections at buildings located across the street. Election workers returned to the administration building for this summer’s primary. But their headquarters on the second floor has now moved to the newly-renovated third floor.

Welcome to the brand-new election center at the Minnehaha County Administration Building.

“This should allow for a longer line of people,” Minnehaha County Auditor Ben Kyte said.

A walk down the hallway leads into the voting room where there are twenty booths for people to cast their ballots early.

“I think it will be good for the public, I think it’s a much better space, I think there’s more room and I think just the traffic, in general, can flow a little better,” Kyte said.

That extra space and improved flow are important to keep the lines of voters moving.

“Oh, I love it. It’s great. It’s easy to get to directions in the hallway tell you exactly where you need to go. You don’t have to worry about, oh, am I going to the right spot, or not,” Sioux Falls voter Daniel Manke said.

“The signs were well-marked to get in here and the flow was very easy. So, very nice facility,” Sioux Falls voter Kathy Lueth said.

Back in the spring, the renovations to the third floor were still very much a work in progress. Election duties were handled downstairs for the June primary. But now that the remodeling is complete, absentee voters have to move up another flight.

“That might be a little bit inconvenient for some of the voters, but we do have an elevator they can take,” Kyte said.

The election center also includes a secure room where unmarked ballots are stored and where dozens of workers will process mail-in ballots on Election Day.

“It just works out well to have a space like this right beside the absentee voting space,” Kyte said.

Another secure, climate-controlled room stores the four tabulating machines that will count the votes on election night. That will take place in the new county commission chambers that started hosting meetings in July.

“So we will line the four tabulating machines, and then behind them will be, we assign a resolution board, so if there’s any questions on a ballot, they review those and make some determination,” Kyte said.

The commission chamber also features glass panels that will allow the public to watch the vote count unfold through the night.

“The public wants to be confident that we’re taking great care with ballots, whether they’re voted or just blank ballots, I think we can let them know that yes, we’ve got them in a very secure space,” Kyte said.

Election Night will be the true proving ground for this newly-renovated space and how it will serve the public for elections in years to come.

“It’s hard to justify building a separate building necessary for elections. But when you have a dedicated space that can be used for other things when election season is not going on, that’s a really good use of taxpayer money,” Assistant Commission Administration Officer Tyler Klatt said.

Now that the election center has a permanent location, county officials see making the move from the second to the third floor to be a step up for voters and election workers when it comes time to cast and count the ballots.

“We know it’s always going to be up here. We can plan for it and we can staff for it and just really sets us up to be prepared for the future,” Klatt said.

Another renovation project is taking place just below the election center. Workers are remodeling the state’s attorney’s office to make it more centralized. That project is expected to be completed later this year. The total price tag for renovations to both the second and third floors is $2.3 million.

If you’re a registered voter, you can vote absentee until November 7th.