The Minnehaha County Election Review Committee is uncovering ballot problems that should have advocates for ballot integrity (and that should be all of us) screaming:

[Committee chairman Bruce] Danielson had compiled information from the April 8, 2014, city election that showed 30 voters were checked in twice, generally a minute or two apart, and three voters appeared to have voted twice by going to different polling places [Jill Callison, "Election Review Board May Propose Legislation Changes," that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.02.20].

Double voting? How on earth did that happen?

When the e-poll books were moved to alleviate the load at voting centers, it took time for those computers to upload all the current information so it could be synchronized with the system.

Without the correct procedures in place, two poll books could be side by side, but it would appear voters checked in at two separate locations, [election hardware/software hawker Brian] Mortimore said [Callison, 2015.02.20].

Poll books? Weren't those Republican former Secretary of State Jason Gant's brilliant innovation? Didn't he make sure he trained everyone properly and considered every contingency to ensure those gizmos didn't thwart the will of the electorate?

“We did a lot of training, and I’m not sure the SOS covered moving a poll book,” said Sioux Falls city clerk Lorie Hogstad, a committee member [Callison, 2015.02.20].

So just how extensive were the problems created by sloppy training and flawed equipment?

Committee member Sue Roust, former Minnehaha County auditor, worked at a polling place during that election. She said records indicated 3,200 people had actually voted when the true number was 4,200, making her wonder whether the machines are capable of keeping up [Callison, 2015.02.20].

1,000 mistakes out of 4,200 voters. The error rate for hand-counted ballots (which don't allow us to give juicy contracts to our friends in the election software business) runs between 0.5% and 2%. Roust is pointing to an election miscount worse than 20%.

The Republican spin machine, which freaks out over the possibility that Indians and poor people and other enemies of their corporate state might find it easy to vote once, let alone twice, is so far silent about the possibility that the election machine they themselves have purchased and promoted could so easily allow voter fraud and election error. This public silence reflects the non-response of the elected official who created them:

In his research on past elections, Danielson said, he had uncovered data that had been sloppily recorded. His attempts to inform the state were thwarted when no one from the Secretary of State’s office, then led by Jason Gant, would return his telephone calls [Callison, 2015.02.20].

The powers that be appear not to care that we can't trust the results of our elections:

That was the concern Brandon resident Joy Howe brought to the meeting, saying “the elephant in this whole discussion” is that ballots are being counted in secret without a public count.

Using machines to count ballots can allow someone to steal an election, she said.

“You stick them into a machine owned by a company with dubious ownership,” Howe said, her voice rising. “It is not a public count, and we are guaranteed a public count” [Callison, 2015.02.20].

The Minnehaha County election review committee continues to work on final recommendations for making our elections more reliable. All South Dakotans should be keenly interested in the results.

75 comments

In my post on Chad Haber's violation of campaign finance laws yesterday, I mentioned Bob Mercer's notice that former Secretary of State Jason Gant appears to have been slacking off toward the end of his administration. My commenters are sharing similar observations on Gant's underperformance, which fit with the history of his troubled single term in office.

For what it's worth, the gal who helped show Gant the door, our new Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, appears to determined to work better, stronger, and faster. For today's tiny hopeful anecdote about good public service, I note that Secretary Krebs responded to one of my inquiries with an e-mail last night at 23:24 CST. I rolled out of bed and replied this morning. Secretary Krebs pinged me back at 05:50 CST.

That timeframe means that, at best, Secretary Krebs got six hours and twenty-five minutes of sleep last night, and that public service was the last thing on her mind when she sacked out and the first thing on her mind when she jumped out of bed for another glorious day in the Capitol.

We'll see how things go when we get to our first petition cycle. But for the moment, the Secretary of State's office seems to be in better hands than it was for the last four years.

14 comments

Folks who ran for office here in South Dakota have eleven days to file their year-end campaign finance reports. As Bob Mercer noted Tuesday, that impending deadline has not stopped Secretary of State Shantel Krebs from unplugging the online campaign finance filing system for an upgrade. Secretary Krebs is busy—Mercer also reports that her office has processed 1,300 pistol permits since Krebs took charge on January 2. "Evidently," says Mercer, "a lot of public business had been left waiting for the new crew." (Yes, I do believe that is Mercer snarking on Gant again.)

Among other business Secretary Gant left for Secretary Krebs to handle is obtaining Chad Haber's delinquent campaign finance report. I check the campaign finance search portal and find that every statewide candidate from 2014 is up to date on filings except for the Libertarian candidate for Attorney General. Everyone else got their pre-general reports in by the October 24 deadline, with the exception of Constitution Party PUC candidate Wayne Schmidt, who waited until November 24. But Haber hasn't checked in with the state since September 2, when he declared on his financial interest statement that he had no sources of income greater than $2,000 and that his job was "full-time candidate."

You'd think a "full-time candidate" would have an easier time filing reports and following the law than those other poor slobs who ran for office while holding down regular jobs.

Secretary Krebs glances up from the big pile of papers on her desk and tells me that Haber faces a $3,000 penalty, the maximum allowed under SDCL 12-27-29.1. If he fails to file his year-end statement by February 2, Secretary Krebs will be able assess another $50 per day delinquent, up to another $3K.

Here's the campaign finance disclosure form—don't be late, candidates!

10 comments

We have our first official ayes on the petition reform package Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is carrying to the Legislature on behalf of the Board of Elections. The Senate Local Government Committee (remind me, what part of requiring the Secretary of State to review statewide nominating petitions is part of local government?) this morning voted 6–0 to send Senate Bill 68 to the full Senate. SB 68 would authorize the Secretary of State to apply the same random 5% sampling process to statewide nominating petitions that she currently must apply to ballot measure petitions.

Worth noting: I use the verb require while Secretary Krebs would say authorize. Require seems more in line with SB 68's auxiliary verb shall; saying authorize seems to assume a may in the bill.

Our verbal disagreement reflects a legal disagreement: like Secretary Jason Gant before her, Secretary Krebs contended before Senate Local Government this morning that we need SB 68 to allow the Secretary to check petitions. I deem that interpretation invalid: current statute includes no specific ban on the Secretary conducting a review to ensure the validity of a nominating petition. But Secretary Krebs and I interpret legal authority differently, and SB 68 will put us on similar pages.

Senator Craig Tieszen (R-34/Rapid City) expressed some frustration that we need SB 68 to get the Secretary of State's office to take this step to ensure the integrity of petitions and the ballot. In the only discussion offered following Secretary Krebs's statement and response to questions, the Rapid City Senator said he was frustrated last year to see that no one seemed to want to be responsible for checking the validity of petitions. Senator Tieszen said he saw too much back and forth between then-Secretary of State Gant and Attorney General Marty Jackley.

Senator Tieszen didn't say it outright, but we know full well he was referring to this blog's effort to challenge Annette Bosworth's perjurious petitions and the failure of Secretary Gant and AG Jackley to respond to many of the legal questions that challenge raised.

Senator Tieszen also commented on legislative nominating petitions. SB 68 does not require the Secretary to review legislative nominating petitions. Secretary Krebs excused that omission by saying that it's hard enough to recruit folks to run for Legislature without subjecting them to that level of scrutiny... which statement seems odd, given that requiring the Secretary to review legislative nominating petitions imposes no burden on the candidates themselves and would only remove candidates who have broken the law and thus should not be on the ballot anyway.

Senator Tieszen offered a more coherent reason for omitting legislative nominating petitions from SB 68. He reminded us that the typical nominating petition for a legislative candidate requires fifty signatures. He said that if he suspects someone running against him for District 34 Senate has submitted a bogus petition, it doesn't take much work for him to get the petition himself and review all the names. Citizens can easily check a legislative nominating petition; checking statewide petitions with thousands of signatures, said Senator Tieszen, should be the "responsibility" of the Secretary of State.

SB 68 heads for the Senate next; it may well be joined by the other elements of the petition reform package, Senate Bills 67 and 69, which face Senate State Affairs scrutiny this morning at 10 a.m.

9 comments

I am outraged that Associated Press, that Sioux Falls paper, KSFY, CNN, NBC, and CBS have declared winners in South Dakota's mid-term election while citizens are still voting. So is Secretary of State Jason Gant:

SOS Jason Gant tweet, 2014.11.04.

SOS Jason Gant tweet, 2014.11.04.

CNN declared a winner while Shannon County voters were still voting, in violation of CNN's own election night projection policy.

Update: Secretary Gant expresses further outrage at other media, including Fox News, for breaching the public trust:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 20.49.03Another commenter mentions NPR is guilty, too... while KELO-AM's Greg Belfrage appalling decides to blame the election worker, not the media:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 20.50.37

144 comments

Legislator-in-waiting Lee Schoenbeck gets to shout "Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!" in my ear all night.

On Sunday, the Aberdeen American News ran an article headlined, "Secretary of State: Elliott Residency Valid." Elisa Sand's article said that Secretary of State Jason Gant found no violation in Democrat Burt Elliott's use of an Aberdeen address for his voter registration and District 3 House nominating petition. Republicans hollered that that headline was misleading; I defended the headline.

Mr. Schoenbeck, who is keenly interested in keeping Elliott from taking a seat in his House, sends me a link to this correction from the Aberdeen American News:

Headline wrong: South Dakota Secretary of State Jason Gant said District 3 House candidate Burt Elliott’s election petition met all requirements for Elliott to run in the district. The headline suggested Gant could determine the validity of Elliott’s residency, when it should have referred to his petition.

We regret the error ["Setting It Straight," Aberdeen American News, 2014.10.29].

As I said in an e-mail to Mr. Schoenbeck, Arrgghh!

I think the Aberdeen paper caved too easily... but the Aberdeen paper has called it, and I cede the point. The headline should have read, "Secretary of State: Elliott Residency Valid for Nominating Petition."

My friend Elisa Sand should now follow up with an in-depth analysis of the Schoenbeck argument, the Heinemeyer precedent, and the implications for South Dakota's thousands of RV voters.

18 comments

Pat Powers and the South Dakota Republican Party continue to scream about Burt Elliott's questionable residency status. I continue to find the question of where we allow a citizen to register to vote practically and Constitutionally important: should the Schoenbeck argument that Elliott committed perjury by declaring District 3 his voting residence also convict the thousands of full-time RVers and college students who spend a majority of the year somewhere other than the address on their voter registration cards?

Enter former Powers patron Jason Gant, our Secretary of State. He says as far as he's concerned, Elliott has committed no foul:

The facts are simple. Elliott’s longtime residence is south of Aberdeen near the intersection of South Dakota Highway 10 and 137th Street, a house that sits within the boundaries of District 2, but not far from the boundaries for District 3. Legislative district boundaries were redrawn after the 2010 census and before the 2012 election. When Elliott filed his petition as a District 3 representative, however, an Aberdeen address in the 1700 block of South Fourth Street address was listed.

It’s an address that matches with Elliott’s voter registration, and Secretary of State Jason Gant said in order for a candidate’s petition to be valid, his or her address on the petition must match the address on his or her voter registration card. The candidate’s petition must also have the appropriate number of valid signatures.

Since Elliott’s petition met those requirements, Gant said, he was certified as a candidate.

“Everything is accurate based on that,” said Gant, a Republican.

If there’s a desire to pursue the legality of the issue, Gant said, that issue would have to be challenged in court [Elisa Sand, "Secretary of State: Elliott Residency Valid," Aberdeen American News, 2014.10.26].

Hmmm... when Secretary of State Jason Gant validated a nominating petition of a Republican Powers liked, Powers was more than happy to trumpet that candidate's propaganda. Powers also poo-pooed further court challenges, telling those he called axe-grinders to settle for changing statute next session. But now faced with his pal Gant's validation of a less-favored Democrat's petition and with the argument from the Aberdeen American News editorial board that Elliott's opponents should settle for changing voter registration laws in the 2015 Legislature, Powers goes purple with rage. He misportrays the editorial, elides Secretary Gant's reasoning, and just goes on shouting, impervious to the fact that law and his patron are not on his side.

District 3 voters are now well aware of Elliott's residency situation. Elliott has a right to be on their ballot, and they have a right to elect him and send him home, wherever home may be. Legislators upset by Elliott's opportunity should start crafting their voting-rights reform bills for 2015... and prepare to be watched closely by students, RVers, and all of us interested in ensuring the right to vote of every person who calls South Dakota home.

23 comments

The early voting stations for American Indians in South Dakota aren't running too smoothly. Fall River County auditor Sue Ganje set up the Shannon County station in a five-foot-by-ten-foot entryway, making it hard to process all the Indian voters who were coming to exercise their Constitutional rights. Ganje's response (so I hear from someone who's been on the scene): those Indians need to exercise their Constitutional rights more slowly.

Auditor Ganje has also had the sheriff out to the polling station in Pine Ridge twice. Ganje says she received complaints that Indian voting rights group Four Directions, which has fought for years to establish early voting stations on the reservations, was coercing voters. Shannon County Sheriff Jim Daggett thus cruised out to see what the fuss was about. He found no fuss, of course, but take a moment to envision a sheriff summoned by a white county auditor to stand at the door of a polling place in front of American Indian voters. What was that you were saying about voter intimidation, Susan?

Enter the unlikely hero, Secretary of State Jason Gant. Our Secretary of State has fought these early voting stations, but yesterday, he evidently came to their assistance:

Four Directions officials were upset that the early polling place in Pine Ridge was set up in a small entryway. After complaints to Secretary of State Jason Gant, a new, larger polling place was found Thursday.

Bret Healy, a spokesman for Four Directions, complimented Gant for personally investigating and finding a new location.

“This was a public official doing the public’s business in a very admirable way,” Healy said [Jonathan Ellis, "Voting Accusations Fly in Reservation Areas," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.10.24].

I find it hard to put Jason Gant and admirable in the same quote, but there they are. The Secretary can't tell the sheriff to stay the heck out of Pine Ridge, but he appears to be doing his job to make voting run as smoothly as possible for all South Dakotans.

Now if he could just straighten out Buffalo County, which has reneged on its promise to open a satellite voting station:

Commissioners last year said they would establish an early voting center in Fort Thompson if they could do so using Help America Vote Act money. Elaine Wulff, Buffalo County’s auditor, said the county has about $20,000 in HAVA [Help America Vote Act] money.

But Wulff said the commissioners didn’t want to use the county’s HAVA funds, but instead wanted to use state HAVA funds. When the state funds weren’t available, the commission decided not to open an early vote center in Fort Thompson.

“We’re really short of funds, and we could not afford it,” Wulff said, adding that it would cost the county about $200 a day.

But Healy said the county was treating its allotment of HAVA money as if it belonged to the county. He also criticized the commission for “changing the benchmark after the fact,” and he said the commissioners were not the type of people he would trust to buy cattle from [Ellis, 2014.10.24].

Buffalo County has HAVA money in its pocket, but it's refusing to use that money for it's intended purpose. Secretary Gant, maybe you need to swing through Fort Thompson on your way back to Pierre.

83 comments

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