South Dakota ballot measure would let people vote at home
By JAMES NORD
Aug. 18, 2017
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Supporters of a proposed ballot measure that would allow South Dakota counties to switch to elections conducted entirely by mail ballot aim to put the initiative before voters next year, the sponsor said Friday.
Backers are waiting for approval to start gathering signatures to appear on the 2018 ballot. Sponsor Drey Samuelson said the vote-at-home plan would help people cast an informed vote, increase election turnout and save taxpayer money.
"We're very serious about it," said Samuelson, a co-founder of initiative group TakeItBack.Org. "We're going to get this on the ballot, and I'm confident that we'll pass it."
Under the proposal, county commissioners could vote to dispense with polling places and require primary, special and general elections to be conducted via mail ballot. Ahead of an election, officials would send each registered voter a ballot that could be returned by mail or dropped off at a designated facility in the county.
The initiative would also allow county auditors to designate precincts with fewer than 200 registered voters as mail ballot precincts without the authorization of a county board.
Samuelson said in counties that adopted the system, it would allow voters to sit at their kitchen table and talk to a spouse or do research online while voting. It would also help voters in rural counties and save money because it's expensive to set up precinct-based elections, he said.
"Single parents don't have to get baby-sitters. It makes it easier for disabled people to vote. It makes it easier for senior citizens to vote," Samuelson said. "You don't have to drive 40 miles to vote. You can just vote when the mail comes."
At least 22 states allow some elections to be conducted entirely by mail, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Backers of the ballot measure need to submit nearly 14,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state in November 2017 to get on the ballot in 2018. Samuelson said supporters hope to collect roughly 22,000.
Republican Party Chairman Dan Lederman said he hadn't seen the proposal, and Democratic Chairwoman Ann Tornberg said her party hadn't taken an official position on the plan. The South Dakota Association of County Commissioners didn't immediately return a telephone message requesting comment from The Associated Press.