Secretary of State Steve Barnett has taken his first step past the typical timidity of his office to address the hazard coronavirus poses to fair and free elections. Barnett last week announced that he plans to send applications for absentee voting to every voter in the state:
“Ensuring every South Dakota voter has access to exercise their right to vote is the goal of all election officials in our state,” Barnett wrote in correspondence sent to auditors. “In response to the current pandemic, we are encouraging all South Dakotans to utilize our state’s absentee vote-by- mail option for our upcoming elections.”
…Once an application is verified by the county auditor, a ballot will be mailed back to the voter.
On the application forms, voters can request a ballot for any upcoming election registered with the Secretary of State’s Office, whether it be municipal, school board, primary, general or special elections [Joe Sneve, “South Dakota Voters Will Receive Absentee Ballot Applications in the Mail,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2020.04.10].
To complete the application Secretary Barnett sends and get a ballot, you’ll need to either get a notary seal on your signed form (bad idea: extra trip around town, extra breaking of social distance, extra risk for you and your friendly notary) or send a copy of your photo ID (possibly complicated idea, since not everyone has a copy machine or scanner around the house). During Veto-Plus Day on March 30, Democratic legislators tried to simplify the absentee ballot application process by changing the law to allow a third option, filling out an application with the same info required on a voter registration form, with no notary seal or photocopy required, but that idea (Draft 926 cum Senate Bill 194) would have made voting easier, and Republicans can’t have that, so they killed it.
But Secretary Barnett is cutting voters a little slack: if they can’t create a paper copy of their photo ID, they can take a picture of the ID with a smartphone and e-mail that image separately to their county auditor.
Secretary Barnett’s favor to voters still isn’t full voting by mail. Washington, Utah, Oregon, Hawaii, and Colorado, don’t make voters fill out a form or fiddle with their phone-cameras and e-mail to get a ballot; the state mails everyone a ballot. But Barnett’s favor is a step in the right direction.
Now it’s up to all of us to do our part and show that voting by mail works. Send in that application, get those ballots early, deliberate over them with your stay-home housemates and Zoom pals, then mark and send them in (and don’t lick the envelope!). We can show the state how much more convenient, affordable, and inviting to all voters it is to send ballots to every voter and let us vote in the safety of our own homes.