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Gant’s Failures Can’t Be Erased by Much-hyped Military Voting Innovation

Secretary of State Jason Gant has gotten three full days of attention in South Dakota's largest newspaper for putting into effect a first-in-the-nation technological advancement that will help overseas military personnel more easily register to vote and secure absentee ballots. Plus, the Dakota Republican Press Release Online Depository gives its typical blippy treatment to the old boss' new accomplishment.

And it appears that Jason Gant and his staff do indeed deserve kudos for taking a year and a $680,000 Federal Voting Assistance Program grant to create a system that allows service members to take a digital photo of their military ID card and use that image to register to vote or to create a ballot online that can then be printed and submitted just like any other absentee ballot. The program is a good idea, even if its acronym-like moniker, iOASIS, isn't any kind of actual abbreviation for its full name, Innovative Overseas Absentee-Balloting System.

Gant is right (there's a surprising series of words, particularly for this blog) to express self-satisfaction when he says:

I am proud to play a part in correcting the injustice that servicemen and women experience in their ballots not being counted. They deserve the same opportunity that everyone else has. They risk their lives defending our right to vote. We need to defend theirs [Jason Gant, "South Dakota Secretary of State Secures Technology to Improve Military Voting," Press Release, 2013.12.02

But let's not allow one parting gift from the self-imposed (self-deposed?) lame duck Secretary of State overshadow the fact that Jason Gant has a long history of disenfranchisement, incompetence, hyper-partisanship, and questionable ethics as South Dakota's chief elections officer. Though it may be tempting to combine our "South Dakota nice" and this stars-and-stripes accomplishment to gloss over that history, it should remain crystal clear: Jason Gant has been a bad Secretary of State whom even his fellow Republicans are glad to see make history as South Dakota's only first-term Secretary of State to not seek re-election.

The August 11 editorial in the same paper that's now all over the military voting upgrade provides a more succinct reminder of Gant's failures than I can politely manage:

[Gant's] latest blunder—in effect denying an extension of voters' rights in the reservation communities of Wanblee, Eagle Butte and Fort Thompson—continues a pattern of conduct that has damaged the reputation of the office to which voters elected him overwhelmingly.


Let the record show that Gant, in his short time in office, has:

— Hired noted political operator and ultra-conservative blogger Pat Powers, allowing him to continue to run his consulting business. Powers, finally, was forced to resign—but not because Gant acknowledged anything wrong with the practice.

— Endorsed Rep. Val Rausch in a primary election for a Senate seat and then claimed to see nothing wrong with such actions. Previous secretaries of state were widely known for bringing a neutral approach to that important constitutional office.

— Instituted a flawed process of campaign finance reporting that favored some candidates over others, slowed the system for public disclosure and hindered the public's ability to examine the influence of special interests in local races.

— Applied election laws unequally to Democrats and Republicans, favoring the latter and even, in one case, allowing one GOP legislative candidate—Brian Gosch of Rapid City—to notarize his own petitions [editorial, "Gant Trashes Trust Placed by Voters," That Sioux Falls Paper, 2013.08.11]

Weigh the iOASIS program—and even the other accomplishments Gant cited when he announced his decision not to seek re-election—against that list, and there's no way to conclude that a few tech-savvy good deeds balance out a tenure full of fundamental misdeeds.

Maybe I shouldn't imply that the mainstream media are giving too much attention to the military voting story. After all, when it comes to Jason Gant, being able to write the headline "Secretary of State Does Good Job" really is a big news event.


  1. Jim 2013.12.03

    Pat couldn't decide between the Gant piece and dr. Boz getting a flat tire on Sunday.

  2. grudznick 2013.12.03

    "Ultra-conservative Blogger"?? I thought Mr. PP was supposed to be some sort of moderate Republican? If he's an ultra-liberal then what are all the whackos going whacko about?

  3. Jana 2013.12.03

    The chicken hawk GOP uses the military as a political tool wrapped in any false patriotism that they can cloth themselves in. Ask the Governor or the past governor how many veterans were living in poverty, uninsured or homeless while they were asking everyone in the audience to salute those that have served.

    While you're at it, ask Stace and others in the GOP about the commitment to the Guard members of South Dakota other than as a convenient photo op.

    Gant would be well served if he went out quietly and ended the embarrassment he's caused the GOP. Heck, ask Shantel about that.

  4. grudznick 2013.12.03

    You people are far too hard on Mr. Gant. He is a well meaning if slightly misguided individual.

  5. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.03

    I got this figured out.

    Now all the young men and women from Wanblee need to do is going the military in order to vote.

  6. grudznick 2013.12.03

    Mr. Cornelius, all they need is a photo id and a ride from a well meaning relative. Or, a bus service funded by the Tribal Government. I don't know if they thought of that or tried it yet. It seems a good idea if just to get the young folk over to Big Bat's to hang out.

  7. John 2013.12.04

    Much ado about so little. I managed to vote in state and national elections while serving from duty stations in the US, abroad, and from combat theaters. Likely the measure is an incremental improvement, yet it certainly is not earth shattering. The first prerequisite for voters to vote is to WANT to vote. The second is to take timely actions: registration, secure a ballot, etc.

  8. Bree S. 2013.12.04

    Replace "ultra-conservative" with "ultra-partisan" and I'd agree with the editorial.

  9. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.04


    No wonder Bob Newland calls you his cyber troll!

  10. grudznick 2013.12.04

    Bob calls me a lot worse than that, and he also calls way too early before Sunday breakfasts, Mr. Cornelius. Bob is an early riser as you know.

  11. Poly43 2013.12.04

    Found gants actions here interesting when considering his actions or inactions with HAVA. Think nationally about what is being done to suppress voting by republicans.

    Think about it. Soldiers, marines, sailors, airmen, will likely vote for the party which has always deep pockets for the military industrial complex.

    A couple of interesting stories.

  12. caheidelberger 2013.12.04

    Good point, Jana and Poly! Gant is using the military to promote himself. Voting rights for soldiers should carry no more importance than voting rights for any other citizen. He expends much time and energy making what John notes is an incremental improvement in access to the ballot for soldiers, yet he balks at taking easier action to give our reservation voters a greater improvement in their ballot access. Gant isn't committed to voting rights; he's committed to scoring political points for himself and his party.

  13. Rorschach 2013.12.04

    I can live with the fact that Jason Gant may have done some good along with the bad as Secretary of State. I agree with John that if military members want to vote they can vote even without this new innovation.

    Let's see how the rollout goes. We should expect Republicans to be unduly and incessantly critical of any glitches or problems.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.04

    Your snide comments about the young people of Wanblee traveling some 90 miles to Pine Ridge to hangout at Big Bat's is just another demonstration of your lack of logic and the limitations of your intellectual capabilities.

  15. Bree S. 2013.12.04

    He only cares about winning. Which is probably why he's going to lose.

  16. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.04

    I was not aware that military serving abroad had difficulties voting that would require the South Dakota Secretary of State to invest $680,000 in federal funding in such a mechanism.

    This is nothing short of grandstanding with Gant wrapping himself in the flag and at the same time denying tribal members access to voting centers.

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.12.04

    R, this is clever!

    "Let's see how the rollout goes. We should expect Republicans to be unduly and incessantly critical of any glitches or problems."

    Thank you. I love well done sarcasm.

  18. twuecker Post author | 2013.12.04

    grudznick, "well meaning if slightly misguided"? I fear that's the same sort of let's-not-ever-speak-ill-of-anyone passivity that allows politicians like Mr. Gant who may start out as simply misguided to become truly and deeply corrupt. I think our collective quickness to dismiss legitimately unethical but operationally limited decisions/errors as an "oopsie" by officials we'd like to think of as mostly well-meaning opens us up to being in a situation like the one we find ourselves in now where the "embattled" Secretary of State has to quit after one term and where way, way too many people don't even have enough trust in the Attorney General to believe he presented a factual cause of death for another (former) state official who ends up out in a shelterbelt dead of a gunshot wound. Gant isn't just a bumbling bureaucrat; his actions have caused harm to the reputation of our government and to the rights of SD residents to vote. Unless we as citizens are willing to articulate that reality out loud to prove we want to hold the people we elect accountable to doing their job, we risk continuing poor performance from those who represent us.

  19. grudznick 2013.12.04

    Mr. Cornelius, I did not say that this same method could not or should not be used for everybody. Including the young people of Wanblee and regardless of whether Big Bat's isn't the hip hangout place it once was or not.

    Sure, maybe Mr. Gant should focus some of those things here inside the state. I'm aboard on that.

  20. Roger Cornelius 2013.12.04


    I simply do not understand why you persistently make cruel and disrespectful comments about the people on the Oglala Sioux Reservation.

    Please tell me what you gain from that!

Comments are closed.