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Jackson County Could Save Time by Publishing Documents Online

Jackson County has a history of trying to keep public documents away from the public. Makenzie Huber notes that Jackson County is one of eleven South Dakota counties that doesn’t take advantage of the ease of online posting to make documents available to its residents and interested outside observers:

Jackson County government officials don’t post public information on the internet.

The rural western South Dakota county, which serves roughly 2,800 residents spread over 1,871 square miles, doesn’t have a website.

And it doesn’t intend to, County Auditor Vicki Wilson said.

“It takes more time than we have staff,” she said.

State government offers a potential solution, but Jackson County isn’t using it. Nor are most other South Dakota counties, cities or other local governments.

It’s a website created by the Gov. Kristi Noem administration in 2021 where local governments can voluntarily upload their meeting notices, agendas and minutes, without having to manage their own website.

Only seven counties post information to the website on a regular and timely basis. Only one city, Sioux Falls, regularly posts upcoming meetings. No school boards actively use the site.

That’s 1% of all local governments in the state using the site.

Aurora is the sole county government to use the state-maintained website exclusively. Meanwhile, 54 counties have their own websites where many of them share information. Eleven counties, including Jackson, don’t appear to post any information online [Makenzie Huber, “State Offers Portal for Local Governments to Post Public Information, But Few Use It,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2023.04.30].

Auditor Vicki Wilson is the same public official who resisted setting up satellite early voting stations for American Indian voters in 2014 because she thought it was too dangerous for election officials to be out driving around the county. You’d think Jackson County would elect an auditor who actually wants to do her job and serve the public.

Wilson probably won’t make the effort to listen to this advice, but, as a writer who regularly publishes documents, photos, data tables, and other useful information before breakfast, let me point out that online publishing doesn’t have to be an extra chore. A county auditor could compose public documents online with WordPress, Google Docs, or Microsoft 365. Jackson County could use the state’s local government portal or a cheaply acquired website of its own as its main storage for public documents, the same way Jackson County is probably using various hard drives right now. Online composition and storage would make it easier not just for us nosy journalists but for the auditor and other county officials themselves to access the county’s documents, since they would be online, accessible from any device with signal rather than only from one office computer.

And when the public can access agendas, minutes, ordinances, and other information online, fewer people will be calling the courthouse with document requests that pull the thin staff away from their other duties. Creating and publishing documents online doesn’t take time; it saves time.

3 Comments

  1. Richard Schriever 2023-05-01

    Last I checked, the City of Sioux Falls was still prohibiting/blocking access to its entire online presence from anywhere outside the US. Maybe the state site where they post limited info doesn’t. But…… why would the city do that? Next time I’m out of the country, I’ll check again.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2023-05-01

    Interesting, Richard. Could it be a spam/DNS issue? Blocking foreign access can preserve server bandwidth for local users, and I’ll bet the majority of foreign access is from hackers.

  3. Mark Anderson 2023-05-01

    Well Cory, you could vacation in Kadoka and set them up. It’s South Dakota’s version of drive over country. You could visit the missle silos in your spare time. The silos are no longer a target.

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