SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Following Tuesday’s election that saw a record number of mail-in ballots, the Minnehaha County auditor is already looking at making changes in anticipation of a busy general election vote-count in November. Bob Litz says he’s considering a new location to count ballots and wants to hire more workers to process the votes.
The convergence of primary and city-school board races, the COVID-19 pandemic and record absentee voting resulted in an election for the ages in Minnehaha County.
“I’m going to tell you it was a hell of an election, it was a hell of an experience. I don’t use the word unprecedented because it’s been beat to death, but this has never been tried before, nobody knew where it was going,” Minnehaha County Auditor Bob Litz said.
Final results didn’t come out until Wednesday night, a full day after the polls closed. Litz says even the extra staffing he had in place and the long hours they put in ahead of the election weren’t enough to keep up with the late surge in absentee ballots.
“But it was amazing the amount of hours that we put in and it still wasn’t enough, so we’ve got to figure that out and get it covered,” Litz said.
Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth says the county should budget additional money to hire more election workers to count ballots.
“We have to do better, if bigger cities can get it done faster, we need to get it done faster,” Barth said.
“The fact is, if we want to get stuff out quicker, it’s going to cost a lot of money,” Litz said.
Come November, Litz wants to move out of the Old Courthouse Museum to count ballots and go to the downtown Coliseum, where there will be more space for workers and a less humid setting for his scanning machines.
“It was very hot and humid in that room that night and that affects the tabulation machines adversely,” Litz said.
Litz says uncertainty over where we’ll be in the fight against COVID-19 this fall makes it difficult to plan for November’s general election. He says another strong showing of absentee voting might be the only certainty we can count on when it comes time to tally the votes again.
Litz still has some unfinished business from this week’s election to address. The Minnehaha County election center will be the site of two recounts, including the Sioux Falls city council race in which challenger Alex Jensen defeated incumbent Theresa Stehly by just 110 votes.