Minnesota Company Prints South Dakota Ballots; Process Takes up to Four Weeks

Last week I said that the Constitution Party may have another month to argue its case and feasibly place Kurt Evans on the U.S. Senate ballot and Wayne Schmidt on the District 23 House ballot. The statutory deadline for printing ballots is September 21, so conceivably, a judge could rule in favor of the Constitutionists at 9 a.m. that day, and county auditors could shoot final ballots through the printer by 5 p.m., right?

Jason Williams of the Secretary of State’s office informs me ballot printing isn’t that easy. County auditors don’t print their ballots in house. Ballots must come from a vendor certified to print optical scan ballots that our counties’ ballot-counting machines can read. According to Williams, auditors create ballots in Pierre-based BPro’s Total Vote election system and send their layouts to SeaChange Election Services (formerly Synergy) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Williams says designing, proofing, printing, and delivering our ballots can take up to four weeks.

Thus, practically speaking, county auditors are likely laying out and ordering their ballots based on the candidate and ballot question lists Secretary Krebs certified last week right now. A reversal of Judge Schreier’s decision to block Evans and Schmidt from the ballot would require either an expedited printing order or a delay of ballots that would in turn delay the opening of early voting on September 23.


17 Responses to Minnesota Company Prints South Dakota Ballots; Process Takes up to Four Weeks

  1. And of course, the reason we need a month and a half of early voting is so people can cast ballots for incumbents before most voters get to know their challengers or see them debate.

  2. PlanningStudent

    We don’t have early voting in SoDak. We have no-excuse absentee. Early voting means your ballot goes straight into the ballot box. Absentee means it goes into an envelope…

  3. Kurt, I can see the possibility of early voting giving incumbents an advantage. Do we have any data supporting that supposition?

  4. Brandon Johnson

    Kurt, the real reason why there is a month and a half of absentee voting (not early voting) is because the MOVE Act of 2009 stipulated that absentee ballots must be made available to UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens) voters 45 days before a federal election.

  5. “PlanningStudent” writes:

    We don’t have early voting in SoDak. We have no-excuse absentee. Early voting means your ballot goes straight into the ballot box. Absentee means it goes into an envelope…

    The National Conference of State Legislatures seems to recognize filling out an absentee ballot in person as a form of early voting. Its website says South Dakota offers both early voting and no-excuse absentee voting:

    http://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/absentee-and-early-voting.aspx

    Cory writes:

    Kurt, I can see the possibility of early voting giving incumbents an advantage. Do we have any data supporting that supposition?

    Do the opinions of constitutional law professors count as data? I’d strongly recommend this 2014 article by Eugene Kontorovich and John McGinnis:

    http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/01/early-voting-the-case-against-102748

    Early voting not only limits the set of information available to voters; to the extent that it decreases the importance of debates, it might also systematically help incumbents and quasi-incumbents like vice presidents, who generally have the advantage of having been in the public eye longer.

    … Even a limited few-days-early voting period could convey most of the advantages of the practice while limiting the most severe democratic costs.

  6. Interesting and well-informed opinion, and I can be swayed by such opinion, but it’s not the same as empirical data showing that early voting gives incumbents a noticeably larger advantage than they already have. Might early voting compensate for the incumbent advantage by bringing new voters into play?

  7. They say the get-out-the-early-vote campaign in Aberdeen is gearing up. Mr. H is right in the only way to compensate for it is to stand at the Twisty Cone with some absentee ballots and a fistful of voter registration cards and try to get some of the young, impressionable libbie college kids returning to Presentation to sign on board. Unless they let you hang out at the Presentation student union or have a booth at the first day of school festival. I bet they let credit card companies have a booth so there’s no reason a civic minded fellow who just wants to register young voters and educate them about their rights shouldn’t have a booth.

  8. In a comment that apparently hadn’t yet been approved when I posted my previous comment above, former South Dakota elections director Brandon (not Brendan) Johnson writes:

    Kurt, the real reason why there is a month and a half of absentee voting (not early voting) is because the MOVE Act of 2009 stipulated that absentee ballots must be made available to UOCAVA (Uniformed and Overseas Citizens) voters 45 days before a federal election.

    It seems reasonable to assume the incumbent Senators (and their staffers) who supported the MOVE Act considered its likely impact on the reelection of incumbents.

    Cory asks:

    Might early voting compensate for the incumbent advantage by bringing new voters into play?

    It might, but to me that seems doubtful.

  9. Mr. Evans is more lucid than I have ever read him. I think he has some points here worth considering that are pounding the respected Libertarian party, in which I have several close friends, into a subservient and disadvantaged role.

  10. “Grudznick” writes:

    Mr. Evans is more lucid than I have ever read him. I think he has some points here worth considering that are pounding the respected Libertarian party, in which I have several close friends, into a subservient and disadvantaged role.

    The state Constitution Party and the state Libertarian Party seem to be working from slightly different angles toward essentially the same goals. I see us as allies.

  11. I agree, Mr. Evans. I am sympathetic to your cause(s) for the most part.

  12. Kurt, the compensating advantage is doubtful if we challengers don’t do anything about it. But if early voting is available, we can push voters to “Vote today!” for 45 days. Make the sale, encourage people to act now, let them get the election monkey off their back. I’m not sure I want to give up that opportunity.

  13. PlanningStudent

    I spent two years fighting with some incumbent or sitting legislators against changing our absentee period. As Brandon Johnson said the MOVE Act was created at the federal level for a very limited number of voters. The County Auditors in SoDak are the ones who fought to extend the absentee period to everyone. They pointed out we already had the ballots in hand so why not make them available to everyone… Secondly they argued it would be easier (and possibly more ethical) to not have two classes of voter in SoDak. If one group of voters gets to vote starting 46 days out, then why have the other group wait till 30, 15, or whatever.

    Legislators on both sides of the aisle have supported shortening the period because once absentee voting begins its like having 40+ days of election day where certain campaign activities are limited. Campaigns can’t offer anything of material value (food primarily) once the absentee window opens because every day is now election day. And now everyone who has already voted absentee can no longer be swayed by last minute ads…

    The early voting thing… yes no-excuse absentee borders on ‘early voting’ even more so when done in person at the courthouse. I have seen so many people and taken so many phone calls from people who hear that they can ‘early vote’ then they are upset when their ballot ends up in an envelope still. That is why I’m die-hard about the language. When you tell people they are early voting they think the ballot is going straight into the ballot box, but in SoDak that just is not the case.

  14. PlanningStudent, I understand the sentiment, but does my envelope sitting in an envelope for 40 days rather than going into the ballot box make any substantive difference? Doesn’t the county auditor keep the enveloped absentee ballots as secure as the enveloped absentee ballots?

    I buy the ethical point on not creating two classes of voters. If the ballots are there, everyone should have access to them. I can see the philosophical point I encountered in one of the above sources against early voting, that we all ought to make our decisions based on the same available information at the same time (of course, that argument calls into question the current primary process and justifies a national same-day Presidential primary). But we’re not forcing anyone to vote early. Voters who feel we should all wait until November 8 to cast our ballots can wait until November 8. Those who are 100% sure on September 23 that they I’ll be a better Senator than Al can cast that vote early and be done with the ruckus. Those who want to pay no attention to any of the information available about policies and character and just want to vote for the R don’t have to look at any other information available. We don’t force people to get equal amounts of information; mandating that they all wait until the specified day unless they can prove they’ll be absent doesn’t seem to present a compelling state interest that overrides the desire to make voting more convenient.

  15. PlanningStudent

    Do I think there’s a difference between it going into an envelope vs straight into the ballot box. Not really, the ballot could be yanked back out if the voter dies, that’s about it, and the extra work of opening an absentee envelop and verifying signatures. The general public, from all the phone calls I fielded, they sometimes do. When they do care, they care quite a bit. Usually for a lack of trust that absentee ballots remain secret. Lots of folks are convinced the auditor looks at how absentees are filled out.. And of course that is simply not the case. And again that confusion seems to originate when they are told by politicians to ‘vote early’

  16. Ah, the signatures! Possible breach of anonymity! Now I understand where the concern you describe could arise. I agree, the concern doesn’t have much basis in actual practice.

  17. Cory writes:

    Kurt, the compensating advantage is doubtful if we challengers don’t do anything about it. But if early voting is available, we can push voters to “Vote today!” for 45 days. Make the sale, encourage people to act now, let them get the election monkey off their back. I’m not sure I want to give up that opportunity.

    I’m not sure most incumbents do either.