South Dakota Election Officials talk future of absentee ballots

People lined up on Election Day in Bell County to cast their vote in the 2020 election.
People lined up on Election Day in Bell County to cast their vote in the 2020 election.(KWTX)
Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 10:18 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - All the dust has settled on the 2020 General Election, and it was unlike any before it. Many did not speculate that when the Coronavirus pandemic began several months ago, that it would effect our elections in November. That did not stop South Dakotans from showing up in en masse to vote.

Several counties across South Dakota posted over 80% registered voter turnout rates. Those counties include Jerauld, Haakon, Hamlin, Potter, Douglas, Harding, Hand, Jones, and Sully. The state’s overall turnout rate was 73.88%.

The 427,523 ballots cast also easily trumped the number of ballots casted in the 2016 election, 378,995.

South Dakota had over 227,000 absentee ballots, up from 19,000 in 2016.

Election officials speculate that the convenience of the mail in ballot, coupled with a contentious election and intriguing ballot measures helped to boost turnout this election.

Grant County posted just over a 79% turnout rate. County Auditor Karen Layher says that when many applied for an absentee ballot for the primary, they did not realize that they would also be getting one for the general election.

“Being able to vote at home at their convenience, not having to worry about the weather, if someone gets sick and they have to leave to take care of someone. I do see mail in ballots getting used more in the future.” said Layher.

South Dakota Secretary of State echoes that sentiment.

“It is hard to look into a crystal ball and see what will be, but I do think people learn to vote a different way and it is possible that these absentee numbers remain higher for years to come, but probably not to this degree.”

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