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Secretary of State Sending out Absentee-Voting Applications to All SD Voters

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.


  1. Donald Pay 2020-04-12 09:45

    Good for him. It does need to be tweaked, as you point out.

    In Wisconsin, we were able to obtain our absentee mail-in ballot by uploading a picture of our Driver License, and filling out an on-line form. We filled out the ballot and mailed it. No extra trips out of social isolation. The notary stuff is really unnecessary bureaucracy. The important point is to allow people to vote without infecting them with a potentially fatal disease. That trip to the notary is stupid public health policy, and potentially a killer. The problem in Wisconsin is that the Republicans didn’t want to accommodate voters with an extended mail-in balloting, and they will pay the price in the fall general election.

    I really hate mail-in early voting, and prefer to vote at the polls on election day, but not at the expense of my life when there is a safe alternative.

  2. Richard Schriever 2020-04-12 10:51

    Barnett doesn’t get credit for this in my book. This is EXACTLY the procedure used by the City of Lennox in our municipal elections – including the e-mailing of the photo ID part.

    There was one additional bit though – we could drop our filled out applications AND ballots in a slot at the “closed to the public” City Hall when completed – NO cost (illegal poll tax?) to the voter for even a stamp. In state-wide elections voters should also have this option – precinct drop boxes so if one chooses to – both applications and ballots could be just dropped in a box, vs. going through all those extra hands and miles @ the PO.

  3. Debbo 2020-04-12 18:14

    Good decision by Barnett.

  4. Buckobear 2020-04-12 18:30

    Now, get yours and vote the republicans out.

  5. T 2020-04-12 19:29

    i Hope this gets the demographics that didn’t show up at polls before the opportunity to finally cast their votes hint

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-04-13 05:52

    Ballot dropboxes! Excellent addition to the plan, Richard.

  7. T 2020-04-13 07:09

    If people have to run around and get notary or anything extra, reservations and rural areas will have some difficulty with that
    It would involve like CH said travel

  8. mike from iowa 2020-04-13 18:21

    Slightly way off topic, Biden wins Wisky primary and Sanders endorsed Biden today. Dem justice in Whisky SC race has 6% point lead with nearly half the precincts counted.

  9. Robin Friday 2020-04-14 16:42

    Happy to hear it. Now if we can just keep the postal service up and running for rural people. I have for many years gone into the Auditor’s office and applied for a ballot and then voted at the Auditor’s office and then deposited my ballot in the absentee ballot box. This should be the same, right?

  10. Robin Friday 2020-04-14 16:47

    In case you haven’t read it somewhere, the postal service is in trouble and asking that each person go in and buy a sheet of 20 stamps which will, they say, generate $1.5 billlion to put them in the black (for a while). Trump wants to privatize them.

  11. mike from iowa 2020-04-14 16:52

    Word on the street is there be a 10 billion dollar loan for USPS, but, I figure drumpf will sour the deal because he can.

  12. Robin Friday 2020-04-14 16:58

    thanks for bringing that Wisconsin election up, mike from iowa. That election turned out to be pretty exciting. The liberal justice WAS elected to the WI Supreme Court in spite of Trump taking the whole matter of rushing the election in WI to SCOTUS in his effort to lower turnout in the middle of the pandemic. The people turned out anyway and stood in line for hours to vote, even though there was massive voter suppression by closing of polls. Good for the people of Wisconsin.

  13. mike from iowa 2020-04-15 17:39

    Texas, otoh, is threatening any group telling voters to apply for absentee ballots due to fear of Covid-19, will be prosecuted for voter fraud.

    I know Rawstory is somewhat suspect, but Juanita jean’s carries a similar tale here…..

    Leave us not forget, JJ’s son Mark Bankston is a capable Texas attorney who is twisting Alex jones in knots in a Texas courtroom over SandyHook slaughter.

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