South Dakota committee approves new election rules

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(The Center Square) – Lawmakers approved new rules regarding South Dakota elections during an Interim Rules Review Committee meeting Tuesday, including changes to post-election audits.

The post-election audit is part of Senate Bill 160, passed earlier this year and requires a post-election audit within 15 days following an election. It would be conducted through a hand count in 5% of a county’s precincts selected at random. The audit would be overseen by a board appointed by the county auditor, according to the bill.

If the results reveal a discrepancy more significant than the margin that any candidate won, the candidates for the office would have an additional seven days to file a petition requesting a recount.

The office of the secretary of state would reimburse counties for the cost of post-election audits, according to the bill’s fiscal note. It’s estimated that the state would pay under $16,000 per election or just under $32,000 every two years.

“We are one of only a few states that does not require a post-election audit,” said Rep. Drew Peterson, R-Salem, during a hearing on the bill during the legislative session.”

The committee also approved rules requested by county auditors.

The rules included removing “wrong examples” for voters on filling out optical scan ballots and absentee ballots and removing the pencil option for filling out a ballot, which means voters will need to use a black or blue pen.

Another rule defined the process for absentee voting at nursing facilities, assisted living centers, or hospitals and changed the phrase “ballot box” to “receptacle” to allow for a “wider variety” of ballot containers, according to the auditors. It also states the ballots must be processed in the same manner as all other in-person absentee ballots.

The committee approved a rule setting up standards for ballot box security, stating the “receptacle” must be visible to the public and staff at all times while in use or is monitored by a security camera and secured by a seal with a serial number or a padlock.

No votes were taken on two rules due to problems with their language around whether specific duties were the responsibility of the county auditor, as the rules suggested or the post-election audit board, as written in the bill.

“I think if the statute is what direction we have from the legislature, that’s what we are following and if they indicated that, then to revert this back to a prior step would be, in my mind, the appropriate thing to do,” said Sen. Jean Hunhoff, who chairs the committee. “There is still time before the primaries that the committee can meet.”

Hunhoff said the two remaining rules must be resolved by the end of June or early April before the primaries in June.

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