Benefits and drawbacks of early voting

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:23 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - South Dakota is less than a week into absentee voting and a number of absentee mail in ballots are already being sent out and returned more than a month before the general election.

Early absentee voting can also be done in-person, something that has already been popular throughout this week.

South Dakota has one of the longest absentee voting periods in the country, something that is being taken advantage of in 2020.

Marlene Sweeter has been a part of the Lincoln County Auditor’s office for over 17 years and says this year they’ve already sent out nearly 9,000 absentee ballots.

“This is definitely the craziest year for mail-ins. In 2016 we had 10,000 absentees but the majority of those were in-person,” said Sweeter.

Sweeter adds there has been a steady flow of voters in-person, as well as ballots filling their drop box.

David Wiltse, an Associate Political Science Professor at South Dakota State, says the long voting period in South Dakota gives voters options.

“An extended amount of time like this really does allow for a tremendous amount of flexibility on the part of the voter. Given more opportunities to vote generally leads to higher levels of voter participation,” said Wiltse.

Wiltse adds that more time to vote early leads to shorter lines on election day, and although it’s rare a major event could happen after casting an absentee ballot.

“Every so often there is some particular event, whether it be Ruth Bader Ginsburg death or any number of other things, that can really come in and reshape an election.” Wiltse added, “The people that have already turned in their ballots they might be second guessing themselves.”

Wiltse also reminds voters who are voting by mail to make sure to follow the directions carefully so that your vote can be counted.

“There is all these little mistakes that people can make and suddenly they’re disenfranchised, and that is a concern. That is one of the nice things about the voting centers here in South Dakota that allow for on-site absentee balloting,” said Wiltse.

Each county has different open times for absentee in-person voting, and the last day to register to vote is October 19th.

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