Press "Enter" to skip to content

Barnett Says Chief Election Officer’s First Priority Is Business, Not Elections

Steve Barnett
Steve Barnett

I listened to Republican candidate Steve Barnett talk on South Dakota Public Radio this noon about why he wants to switch from the auditor’s office to the secretary of state’s office. He made clear that his interest in being South Dakota’s chief election officer is less about elections and voter rights and more about keeping the Republican Party’s business cronies happy.

In the Moment host Lori Walsh asked Barnett to name his highest priorities. He led with a promise to process business filings more efficiently. He followed up with a somewhat shrugging mention of election security, saying that, sure there are concerns, but that South Dakota’s system is good. (At least Barnett didn’t parrot the Kobach/Trump false allegations of widespread voter fraud.)

Asked to assess the performance of current Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, Barnett focused on Krebs’s improvement of customer service for business filers. Analyzing voter registration or election practices doesn’t cross his lips.

Whenever I’ve listened to Barnett’s opponent, Democrat Alexandra Frederick, talk about why she wants to be Secretary of State, she has always spoken first and foremost of voter participation and fair elections.

Candidates for Secretary of State should recognize that the fate of the Republic does not hinge on being able to file our business reports a little faster. The fate of the Republic hinges far more crucially on ensuring that elections are fair and open to every eligible voter. Same-day voter registration, clear petition rules, satellite early-voting stations in underserved communities, strong ballot security—there are lots of issues for the Secretary of State to work on before getting to more favors for business.

There are thousands of businesses in South Dakota. There are hundreds of thousands of voters. First things first. Elect a Secretary of State who’s focused on her first obligations: to voters and democracy.


  1. Donald Pay 2018-09-11 12:57

    The guy just proved himself to be an ignorant doofus, and unfit for any office. Securing and having fair elections is the most critical function of any government. You could get rid of any other function of our government, and people could probably find a way to get by. Without an electoral system that can be trusted to be fair, we eat a little better than ISIS, but we are headed in that direction. Don’t think elections are the most important governmental function? Without them the only recourse is the 2nd Amendment. Vote or lead: your choice.

    If this guy has any sense at all he’ll quit the race.

  2. John 2018-09-11 13:16


    He is another career bureaucrat he’s never going to quit he’s moving from one office to the other and has no idea what the job even en tales. I think this is really a missed opportunity this race deserves a lot more attention then it has been getting.

    Barnett is basically having a free pass to secretary of state which is a very important office.

  3. mike from iowa 2018-09-11 16:30

    Ever get the feeling that wingnut pols in South Dakota don’t even notice there are any Dems around? They seem to just grift and crony to their heart’s content, seemingly they know or just assume the AG has their back.

  4. Donald Pay 2018-09-11 17:09

    This is an argument for stripping the SOS of any work related to elections and lobbying regulation, or making the SOS a nonpartisan office. If it’s not the major priority of his office, he has no respect for the votes he seeks. I hope he gets zero votes. That’s what he deserves.

    Maybe all those duties should be moved to a non-partisan committee of people, maybe retired judges, with professional, rather than political, staff. For a number of years (until Scott Walker re-politicized the body), this was the way things worked in Wisconsin. Should the SOS or other elected officials be elected on a non-partisan ticket? Shouldn’t he or she be above the partisan landfill, making decisions based on the law, rather than the party? In days of yore, the SOS went out of the way to be fair and non-partisan and wanting to assure that everyone voted. The last few SOSs have seemed to be political hacks, at best.

  5. grudznick 2018-09-11 17:26

    How many of these career bureaucrat fellows are there, and does anybody know how many years each has currently spent in other gravy jobs? Ms. Krebs is not one, for she is a woman and only was there for one term before she got too big for her britches and learned she wasn’t ready for the bigger ponds. There should be a list and term limits should be for any office, not just doing the office hippy hop.

  6. leslie 2018-09-11 19:29

    Barnett, a familiar name in Pierre for generations of Republican domination, butters cronies bread, and today this one repeated his main objective was to make national connections. That’s how disgraced Koch crony Scott Pruitt used RAGA in his rise. Republican Atty Genl Assn is a political tool just like the Sec Stat Assn likely is.

  7. grudznick 2018-09-11 20:07

    I am told that young Ms. Feigum has been around for a few years, and another fellow name of Sattgass has been around for the longest. grudznick renews calls for a term limit with no hippy hopping allowed.

  8. Anne Beal 2018-09-11 21:13

    I wish you folks who keep telling us there are thousands of people who are eligible to vote but can’t would produce at least one so we can find out what the problem is. Not once have I ever seen one of these disenfranchised voters on TV telling telling the world how they don’t have any form of identification, didn’t have a ride to the polls, or were somehow prevented from casting a ballot.
    Once I knew some people who had recently moved here from Alaska and didn’t know they couldn’t do same day registration. But they blamed their own ignorance for that

  9. Donald Pay 2018-09-11 21:40

    Why not have same day registration in South Dakota? It works just fine in every state that has it.

  10. grudznick 2018-09-11 22:10

    I suppose, Mr. Pay, it’s not just up to the State Secretary, but there are probably laws about such things. I don’t think Mr. Barnett will be able to just wave a wand and have the same day registration, or voting by twitter either. Our legislatures are pretty backwards and per snickitty when it comes to fancy computer things. Most of the legislatures really like to scribble their notes on yellow legal pads, just like they did back in my day and yours.

  11. Debbo 2018-09-11 22:23

    I feel that our elections are more questionable now than they have been since the days of “Vote early and often.”

    It began with the no paper trail Diebold machines and Mr. “Diebold’s” promise to deliver elections to the GOP. There was the physical GOP attack on the Florida recounters in 2000. Then Pootie delivering 2016 to his Ferret-wearing Puppet. Now we’re all the way to the Pootiepublicans in Congress refusing to defend against Pootie and Iran this year. They probably feel like cheating again is their only chance to hang onto the House.

    Every state must have an extremely robust, dedicated SOS laser focused on protecting the fairness of the citizen’s voting rights above all else. Business comfort will have to wait in line behind that.

  12. Donald Pay 2018-09-12 10:19


    You are right. It would take some statute revisions, but any SOS with election matters as their first priority might consider how to make the whole process easier for voters, and present those to the Legislature. It seems to me the process should be made easy for the real rulers, the people, to rule. Of course there has to be some reasonable administrative measures to assure fairness and make sure everything is above reproach, but states that have same day registration don’t have a problem.

    It’s not as if same day registration requires computer technology, though I suppose nowadays it does. When I was a student at UW in 1975, we registered same day as the election back then. It has been a long-standing institution in Wisconsin.

  13. Debbo 2018-09-12 11:28

    Minnesota has had same day registration for a long time. Fraud incidences are very low and Minnesota takes pride in usually leading the nation in voter participation. We’ve also had DFL (Democratic) SOS’s for the past 20+ years. Makes a difference.

  14. leslie 2018-09-12 12:16

    Amen Sister! “Every state must have an extremely robust, dedicated SOS laser focused on protecting the fairness of the citizen’s voting rights above all else. Business comfort will have to wait in line behind that.”

  15. leslie 2018-09-12 12:19

    Anne FCS, look at Chamberlaine, look at atty Sara Frankenstein’s legal GOP machinations in MT and SD shutting down polling places on various reservations.

  16. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2018-09-13 22:06

    Dare we pursue Donald’s suggestion and expand government to create a separate election management office?

    I can see the logic of making the chief election office non-partisan. The umpire of elections perhaps should not belong to any party, or at least should not run in any partisan election.

  17. grudznick 2018-09-13 22:18

    You can’t force anybody to be unaffiliated with any party. They have a right to belong to the Constitutional Party if they want. You can make it not have primaries if you’d like, but I submit to you fellows that there will be a known “R” and a known “D” and a known “L” (my good friend Bob), and a known “C” (grudznick) running for these offices anyway.

    The umpire cannot have his rights stripped to belong to whatever party he wants. #mrnelsonsaysso

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.