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Rounds Staffer Tweets His Ballot; Republic Survives, Gant Embarrassed

Rounds for Senate staffer Justin Rollins got really excited about casting his primary ballot early yesterday. He took a picture of his marked ballot and posted it on Twitter to encourage all of his followers to vote for Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard, "Two great South Dakotan's." Aside from misusing the apostrophe (hey, my typing fingers slip and do it, too), no big deal, right?

Well, Jonathan Ellis points out that displaying your marked ballot violates SDCL 12-18-27:

Marked ballot not to be shown--Folding for deposit in ballot box. No person may show a ballot after it is marked to any person in such a way as to reveal the contents of the ballot, or the name of any candidate for whom the person has marked a vote. Nor may any person solicit the voter to show the voter's ballot. Immediately after marking the ballot the voter shall fold and refold the ballot, if necessary, leaving the official stamp exposed [South Dakota Codified Law 12-18-27, passed 1939, amended 1974, 1976, 1990.].

Rollins tells Ellis he had no idea South Dakota outlawed sharing images of marked ballots. Neither did I. Upon being informed of the law, Rollins deleted the photo tweet.

This issue came up nationwide during the last election, when folks on both sides proudly and propagandistically posted images of their ballots on their social media accounts. Such laws are meant to inhibit vote-buying:

[Boston Reporter David] Bernstein said that, after asking around, he’s come to understand that the law stems from the state not wanting people to buy votes. ”The idea being if someone was buying your vote, you’d take a picture to show that you voted for who they wanted you to vote for,” Bernstein said. “So you could see the thought behind it in that sense” [Nate Goldman, "That Photo Of Your Ballot You Posted On Social Media? It’s Against Mass. Law," WBUR, 2012.11.06].

One may also justify ballot-display bans on grounds of protecting the integrity of the polls. We prohibit electioneering activity at polling places, and taking a photo of your ballot may be construed as electioneering activity.

I see no ill intent in Rollins's ballot photo-tweet. I know I've taken photos of my ballot before (though I can't remember if I posted such photos or if I ultimately just kept them for documentation; I trust some ambitious reader will sift through my online trail to find out). But Rollins's ignorance of the ballot photo ban is worth noting considering his resume:

In the summer of 2010, Justin returned to South Dakota as campaign manager for Jason Gant for Secretary of State. Since the election, he has served as State Election Coordinator in the Secretary of State’s office, serving as the office’s point-of-contact for campaign finance issues, as well as school and municipalities election law [SDGOP, press release, 2011.11.15].

The man who had no idea this election law existed was hired by Secretary of State Jason Gant to explain election law to schools and municipalities. South Dakota, that's the quality in government we got by hiring Jason Gant as our Secretary of State.


  1. Nick Nemec 2014.04.19

    Having a firm grasp and understanding of election laws is not a requirement for employment as State Election Coordinator, being a former member of South Dakota Teenage Republicans is.

  2. Dan Van 2014.04.19

    Based on how Gant handled the Bosworth petition, I'm thinking that the elections laws on our state don't apply to everyone and that he will get a pass on this one.

  3. Larry 2014.04.19

    If this he had been a Democratic staffer, I am sure charges would have been filed and this would have been used to show voter fraud on Fox.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.04.19

    In 2008 I wrote in my nephew for Potus(he has MS) and I wanted to take a photo to send to him,but the entrenched powers at Obrien,iowa county courthouse would not allow it. He had to take my word he had one vote for Potus,more than alot of people ever get.

  5. Donald Pay 2014.04.19

    Nope. Just another example of Republican lawlessness. Move along, nothing here to see. There is be no consequences. He's a Republican.

  6. John 2014.04.19

    Yet another example of how bad republicans are at governing - they don't even know the laws in the subject matter in which they are or recently were serving. No one would expect Gant or Rollins to know an obscure banking law, yet to be ignorant of election law when that's the primary function of the office appears as, well, charitably, criminally neglectful. It never ceases to amaze us in these small states with uninquisitive, compliant, advertising based media what and how much the Pierre clowns get away with.

  7. Bree S. 2014.04.19

    I think DCI should prosecute him. Arbitrary prosecution is what makes South Dakota great.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2014.04.19

    Sounds like ALL the election, ballot, petition laws and rules should be published in one neat package.

  9. student 2014.04.19

    Bree, I did a spit take when I read your post. LOL Very well stated.

  10. mike from iowa 2014.04.19

    But then you'd have Jackley and Gant debating whether a crime had to be committed at Arby's to be arbitrarily prosecuted,or even arfully prosecuted. Then Jackley would have to arbitrarily decide if a Grand Jury could indict a roast beef sandwich instead of a ham sandwich and then his head would 'splode. Then Gant would order a vicious doggy bag juat because he can.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.04.19

    Funny stuff. But one question:

    Mike, what is a "vicious doggy bag juat"?
    (Typos and auto correct can be so entertaining.)

  12. mike from iowa 2014.04.19

    juat was supposed to be just. Wingnuts can't be satisfied with ordinary doggy bags. They are strange that way. :)

  13. Disgusted Dakotan 2014.04.19

    So is it just happens chance that Rounds is trying to buy the election with $9 Million in DC/NY special interest monies and former Secretary of State employee Rollins just happens to violate an election law that he was employed to know and enforce?!

    Maybe when Gant and Jackley tell Cory what they are going to do about the other violations of Bosworth's petition, they can tell us how they are going to deal with Rollins?

  14. grudznick 2014.04.19

    Young Mr. Gant seems to have made a whole passel of hiring snafus and we can only hope that soon they will all be rectified.

  15. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.04.20

    You folks shouldn't be so cynical. Mr Rollins couldn't be expected to know this obscure law. He has been too busy trying to help SOS Gant figure out how he was going to deny Madville's challenge to Dr Bosworth's petitions.

    Now if you wanted to really get upset about something in election law, I think it should be a law that when a person runs for election and wins, they need to serve a significant portion of the term for which they were elected.

    This of course would stop folks from running for one office while already serving in another one, unless the one they are serving is expiring. And naturally that would have precluded Dusty Johnson being appointed Chief of Staff for the Governor, which would have also then not required the Governor to appoint a replacement to the PUC for the just elected Mr Johnson.

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