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7.7% Ballot Error in Douglas County Flips District 19 Primary Result; Overweg Beats Bahmuller in Recount

Political newcomer Jessica Bahmuller defeated Representative Marty Overweg (R-19/New Holland) in the June 2 District 19 Republican primary by 21 votes… or so we thought. Rep. Overweg called for a recount, and the recounters changed 52 ballots in Overweg’s Douglas County and flipped the result to a 21-vote victory for the appointed incumbent.

Bahmuller spoke with me over the noon hour about this reversal. With five counties gerrymandered into District 19, Bahmuller couldn’t attend the recount at all five courthouses. She chose to witness the recount in Hutchinson County, where she had her largest vote total and thus, she figured, the most to protect with her watchful eye. She saw just one vote change in Hutchinson County. Bon Homme, Hanson, and McCook counties reported no changes.

But Douglas County, the only county where Overweg didn’t finish last in the original primary night tally, the only county where Republican voters thought he’d done well enough in the 2020 Session to serve again, somehow produced 86 changed votes. According to what Bahmuller says she heard from Douglas County auditor Phyllis Barker (and Bahmuller warns that she’s heard conflicting information from that office), Bahmuller gained 11 votes, Rep. Kent Peterson gained 23, and Rep. Overweg gained 52.

Bahmuller said she has heard that the new votes came not just from Overweg’s county but from his home precinct. Bahmuller said there are “a lot of coincidences” that are “pretty obvious to everyone involved.”

Jessica Bahmuller
“It is an unfortunate circumstance, and I feel hurt for the voters of District 19 who have lost their faith in our voting system. I thank every one of the 1,752 people who voted for me, and I hope to earn those votes again. Running against two incumbents during a pandemic was a difficult task, and I knew the challenge we faced, but considering the outcome, I am extremely proud of all we have accomplished.” —Jessica Bahmuller [photo from Bahmuller campaign FB, 2020.06.01].

86 changed votes across an entire district where 5,432 votes were cast (and remember, that’s votes, not voters, as voters can check up to two candidates on a state House ballot) is 1.6% error, a significant change. 86 votes changed out of 1,110 cast, a 7.7% error, coming from one county, the recount victor’s home county, when the other four counties in the same race combined reported one change, is more than significant; it’s a call to audit that county’s election procedures and find out what went so far wrong, in a way that could have affected local races well outside of the 2% margin that authorizes candidates to call for a recount under South Dakota law.


  1. Owen 2020-06-23 19:57

    This is what happens with 1-party rules. Republicans can dump on other Republicans and get away with it.
    Overweg is a Noem appointee and she should be asked about this. It really makes Noem look bad, and for Noem looks are everything.

  2. Curt 2020-06-23 21:01

    That kind of error rate is incredible. She needs to lawyer-up ASAP and subpoena the members of the re-count Bd. Something is fishy there.

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-06-23 21:35

    If looks are everything, Owen, wouldn’t Noem prefer having Bahmuller representing her party in Pierre than Overweg? Heck, Bahmuller was Mrs. South Dakota 2016!

    But maybe Kristi wouldn’t want another pageant queen around with piercing blue eyes rocking that cap-and-plaid country girl look….

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-06-23 21:51

    Indeed, Curt, an error that big begs for investigation. Maybe Angela Kennecke can head out there and demand to see the ballots.

    Auditor Barker tells the Mitchell Daily Republic that no new ballots were discovered, but that humans erred in reporting the count to the Secretary of State:

    Unofficial Recount, New-Found Votes Valut Overweg Ahead of Bahmuller in District 19 Race,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2020.06.23].

    So error, no tomfoolery? Hmm… to make this a fake, one would have to have some smarts and probably some connections with the courthouse staff in Armour.

    Hmmm… you know who’s really smart? Kristi Noem’s chief of staff, one of the six smartest men in South Dakota, Tony Venhuizen.

    You know who’s from Armour? Tony Venhuizen.

    You know who could have slipped those extra votes in and offered the tabulation-error cover story? Not Tony Venhuizen! because Tony is, like Ferris Bueller, a righteous dude.

    But even if we exclude Venhuizen from the line-up, the Secretary of State should send some investigators to at least find out exactly who fouled this count so badly, who hired that person, and then require the miscounter and the miscounter’s hirer to sit through mathematical sensitivity training.

  5. Greg Deplorable 2020-06-23 22:06

    Way to propel sexism into a story where wasn’t Mr. Woke liberal.

  6. leslie 2020-06-25 02:23

    And we are hoping for a free and fair election in November under Trump and Noem?? SDDP taken a position on this?

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