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South Dakota: Peninsula of Electoral Mediocrity

Northern Plains News spotlights a new report from the Pew Charitable Trusts measuring the quality of election administration in each state. Their findings offer solid metrics showing that the quality of election administration in South Dakota declined significantly from 2008 to 2012.

In 2008, under the Secretary of Stateship of Chris Nelson, South Dakota scored a 68% on Pew's Election Performance Index, ranking 17th nationwide. In 2010, Secretary Nelson got us up to a 75%, 6th best in the country.

Then came Secretary of State Jason Gant. He gave up whatever progress Nelson had made, dropping our EPI back to 69% and dropping our rank to 29th.

North Dakota and Minnesota ranked 1st and 2nd in 2012; the only state next to us that scored worse was Wyoming, which ranked 33rd. Even Illinois, with all its purported Chicago-style corruption, scored better than South Dakota in administering elections, showing great improvement from 2008 in gathering complete data, reducing barriers to voting for sick and disabled folks, and offering voter information lookup tools.

The Secretary of State isn't entirely to blame. South Dakotans in general haven't been exercising their civic duties in any exemplary fashion. Voter turnout in 2012 was 60.14% (27th in the nation) and voter registration was 83.14% (28th in the nation). We're rather middling in our urge to get out and vote. The Secretary can't make horses drink, but he could certainly set out more water troughs and keep them filled longer instead of trying to drain them.


  1. larry kurtz 2014.04.08

    Registration means jury duty: is South Dakota an outlier?

  2. rufusx 2014.04.08

    When I lived in California, having a driver license meant jury duty.

  3. Larry 2014.04.08

    South Dakota gets its jury pool from both driver's license and voter registration lists.

  4. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.04.08

    You write some of the most fun metaphors. Love 'em!

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