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SOS Proposes Online Voter Registration, Striking Voter Age from Master Registration List

The South Dakota Board of Elections meets tomorrow in by conference call. In addition to discussing where they’ll force us to write Jon Hansen’s redundant circulator ID numbers on our ballot question petitions, the board will consider a few changes to election law proposed by our Secretary of State:

First, the SOS would add one line to SDCL 12-4-2: “Eligible persons pursuant to §12-4-1 with a valid driver license or non-driver identification card issued by the State of South Dakota may register to vote through the system provided by the Office of the Secretary of State.” Right now, one can walk into the Secretary of State’s office to register to vote; adding a “system” appears to pen the door for online voter registration, which would be absolutely awesome for us petitioners! Instead of toting around yet another set of papers, having aspiring voters fill them out, and then trucking them to the courthouse, petition circulators could invite non-registered South Dakotans to register instantly and securely online. Once those registrants have hit “Submit” on their phones, they could then put their new voter registrations to use immediately by signing our ballot question petitions on the spot. That’s doubly good for democracy!

Second, the SOS would like to protect a little more of voters’ personal information. Current law [SDCL 12-4-9] excludes registered voters’ day and month of birth from the master registration file that any candidate, ballot question committee, or other interested person may purchase. The SOS proposes to hide voters’ year of birth as well. The less information the state hands out to people who plan to call and knock on my door, the better! (Now if we could just get the Secretary to apply that thinking to that dratted circulator registry….)

Third, the SOS notices that SDCL 12-6-51.1 refers to “runoff” elections while SDCL 12-12-1 still refers to a “secondary” election. The SOS proposes to strike “secondary” in the latter statute and replace with “runoff.” O.K.

Finally, the Secretary seeks to write into statute a rule it has informally enforced in previous elections: the Pro/Con statements in the ballot question pamphlet (one of my favorite government documents!) provided by SDCL 12-13-23 must be no more than 300 words long. That change means no effective change in practice, so I won’t hackle up there… but don’t you try taking away the Pro-Con statements!

The latter change are small; the biggest deal is the potential for online voter registration statewide. I look forward to learning more about how we’d keep such a system secure, what information voters would have to submit online, and how fast the system could authorize a citizen to vote. A reliable and efficient voter registration system could help open the door for same-day registration, which would be super!


  1. Donald Pay 2019-08-12 08:32

    I’ve never been a fan of the Pro/Con statement, just like I’m not a fan of the AG’s explanation. The reason is simple. It can be taken as an official document, but it’s usually written as campaign statement, not a statement of fact or law that is binding. However, that document can be taken by the courts as some statement of intent about the measure, and that can be dangerous and costly. This happened in one of the SDDS cases. State courts and the local federal courts knew and understood what the Pro/Con statement was, but the Appeals Court misconstrued it, ignored all the other research on the issue and handed SDDS a judgement that eventually cost South Dakota millions of dollars.

  2. Bruce 2019-08-12 13:59

    Are you sure about birth month? I have never received a person’s birth month in ANY voter data purchased fron SOS.

    I have had years of buying the list and use it heavily.

  3. John Dale 2019-08-12 15:06

    Sure, I have a horse in the race, but no matter what the outcome this will be a fascinating time to be alive and paying attention.

    Trump and his adjuncts are doing so much with so little and it’s amazing. I just saw a report about Epstein that is mind blowing.

    I love what this guy is doing.

    Not everything, but most everything.

    No matter what kind of hot air pumps out of the establishment, it will never be enough to countermand what is happening.

    If this keeps up, we’ll have a new age of enlightenment, and not a new dark age.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2019-08-14 07:32

    Note to Bruce: yes, birth month is excluded now; SOS now proposes excluding year.

    I haven’t heard whether the board adopted the above proposals yesterday to forward to the Legislature. I did hear they tabled discussion of all rule changes implementing HB 1094 to wait for the outcome of the current federal lawsuit against the circulator registry and badges. :-)

  5. Bruce 2019-08-14 07:51

    Birth month and day have been excluded for years in purchased list downloads from SOS office. Year of birth is a very important piece of data for many reasons in researching voter trends to preventing voter suppression games. In my research of voter data, how do you know which of the three John Smith names at the same address are you trying to reach unless you know what year they are born? It happens more than you think. Hyper poll watchers have been know to block potential voters because they did not know which one just showed up to vote. I’ve been doing this for over 50 years seeing and experiencing a lot.

    The proposed legislation is being prepared in bill form to give legislature. I was told by a person in the room my comments may not have been well received.

    Just because “a” Homeland Security or unidentified person said the birth year should be removed, it should be removed. So we are to believe a 3rd party, overheard in a crowded room statement we should allow those in control of the data to take more of it away from us without a reason except perceived fear? What a mess we have.

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