Eye On KELOLAND: Securing the vote


CANTON, SD (KELO) — Much of the heated national political discourse this election season has focused on ballot security. President Trump has raised concerns about voter fraud connected with mail-in voting. But local county auditors say your vote is safe, whether you cast your ballot through the mail, or in person.

The Lincoln County auditor’s office functions much like a bank. Its fireproof vault stores valuable currency: thousands of absentee ballots.

“And we lock them up in there every night. The un-voted, voted, there’s no ballot laying around when we leave at night,” Lincoln County Auditor Sheri Lund said.

Minnehaha County was already changing the locks on the two outdoor drop boxes in downtown Sioux Falls just one week after they were installed. The auditor says it’s important to keep the drop-boxes tamper-proof.

“It’s kind of like a car, every hundred set of keys, somebody’s got one just like it. And I did not want that, so we changed that, upgraded the locks on those ballot drop-boxes,” Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said.

Some South Dakota voters say they’re concerned about ballot security based upon reports from across the nation.

“The media has portrayed missing ballots, or ballots found in ditches and I guess I want to make sure my ballot is there, in-person,” Sioux Falls voter Lydia Healy said.

But county auditors say missing or misplaced ballots are not an issue here.

“I know what we do here and it’s hard for me to imagine that there’s any kind of fraud because of the steps that we take here,” Lund said.

Steps like verifying that signatures on the envelopes match signatures on the absentee ballot request forms. Sometimes the signatures don’t match, but usually it’s an honest mistake.

“Sometimes you don’t sign it the same. You might be signing it in a car, hit a bump and your ‘S’ goes crazy and so we have three people verify it, Lund said.

Processing mail-in votes is more labor-intensive than checking the ID’s for in-person absentee voting.

“There is mail-out, mail back, verify the signature and then put it in the vault, so a few more steps, but not horrible,” Lund said.

Litz says getting your ballot in the mail on time, might be pushing it with just two weeks to go until Election Day. He says problems with the post office have created headaches for his office as well as for voters in the county.

“People are not getting things mailed back here and the ballots we mailed out are not getting delivered on time. I had a couple in Brandon, she got hers three days after we dropped it and he’s still not got his. I don’t know what happened to it and we know we mailed it out. We’ve got a lot of people that are paranoid about that and so we’ve been encouraging them to drop it off,” Litz said.

Despite some delivery issues, Litz says the November election will be like many elections before. Only this time, there will be more absentee ballots to process and tabulate. But auditors say they’ll be up to the task come election night. And in the meantime, they want to assure everyone that they can count on their vote being safe and secure.

Sioux Falls Postmaster Larry Michels says there has only been one missed delivery of absentee ballots locally during this election season, otherwise carriers have completed all of their political mailings on-time. He says all carriers are instructed to be extra careful about ensuring on-time delivery of ballots.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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