A couple dozen Augustana students have been disenfranchised by the unexplained failure of their voter registration cards to reach the Minnehaha County auditor’s office:
Augie Governor Professor Emily Wanless says the kids signed up to vote during a big registration drive on campus and all the forms were mailed.
“For whatever reason, again that we don’t know, the South Dakota ones that were mailed to the Minnehaha County Auditor’s Office are not showing up as registered,” Wanless told KELO Radio on Tuesday. She said, maybe, they were lost in the mail, but the forms filled out by Augie students from other states made it through just fine [Mark Russo, “Voting Lesson Learned the Hard Way,” KELO Radio, 2016.11.08].
Hmmm… whoever conducted the voter registration drive may be in some deep legal doo-doo. SDCL 12-4-3.2 says, “Any private entity or individual registering a person to vote shall file the completed registration form with the county auditor within ten days or by the voter registration deadline, whichever is first.” Note that doesn’t say, “drop the form in the mailbox.”
The Secretary of State’s website says nothing about the mailbox, either:
It is imperative that every registration form which you are responsible for returning be received by the county auditor by that deadline. If a form is not returned by that deadline the voter will be disenfranchised for that election and you, as the person responsible for returning the completed form, may be held legally responsible [South Dakota Secretary of State, “Voter Registration Drive Instructions,” retrieved 2016.11.08].
Rarely if ever does the United States Postal Service let me down. But with the courthouse just across town, I’ve never placed voter registration forms in the mail; I’ve taken every form from a new voter to the courthouse and handed that form to the auditor’s staff myself.
Those couple dozen forms may not have disappeared through any error of the registration drivers. The forms mailed to other courthouse besides Minnehaha’s appear to have arrived by post without problem. But statute and the Secretary appear to be saying that if you want to make sure a voter registration drive is done right, you’d better do it yourself… all the way to the courthouse.
Update 17:06 CST: SDPB’s Charles Michael Ray fills in more details: The nonpartisan Augustana Government Club conducted the registration drive in conjunction with National Voter Registration Day on October 4. A student dropped the forms in a mailbox at a Sioux Falls Hy-Vee. The students disenfranchised include Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and independents.
Update 18:02 CST: An eager Tweeter reminds me that this foul-up is a good reason to have same-day voter registration.