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South Dakota candidates, parties urge backers to vote early

September 20, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Some of South Dakota’s top elected offices are on the line in November, so campaigns are wasting no time in mobilizing supporters as early voting gets underway.

Absentee voting starts Friday in the state, where candidates are running for governor, the U.S. House and state attorney general, not to mention other statewide offices and the Legislature. There are also five ballot measures to be decided this election, which will be held Nov. 6.

The state Republican Party plans to encourage people to vote early by knocking on doors and sending mailers to areas with high levels of early voting, said the party’s finance director, Dave Roetman.

“Get out and vote early because the vote ... counts the same, and you don’t forget,” Roetman advised. “We call it banking the votes.”

Volunteers for the state Democratic Party will go door-to-door and make phone calls to prospective supporters, party spokesman Aaron Matson said in a statement. Democrats also plan to hold events throughout the state to encourage people who request absentee ballots to submit them to their county auditors, he said.

“We understand the importance of the early and absentee vote, and we’re planning accordingly,” Matson said. “We’ll have an aggressive campaign to target early and absentee voters this year.”

South Dakota voters cast more than 52,000 absentee ballots during the 2014 midterm election.

In the race for governor, Democrat Billie Sutton, a state senator and former professional rodeo cowboy, will hold a Friday event in Sioux Falls to kick off early voting. Campaign spokeswoman Mackenzie Huber said in an email that Sutton has spent years listening to the state’s voters and would like to “ensure their voices are heard loudly and clearly in this election.”

The campaign for Sutton’s Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, will be running a “robust” turnout operation that encourages people to “vote today and not wait until the last minute,” campaign manager Justin Brasell said in a statement. Noem, the state’s lone U.S. House member, has never taken a race for granted and this year’s could be tight because of the current political landscape, he said.

Republican Dusty Johnson, who is running for Noem’s House seat, plans to use email and social media to urge supporters to vote early, campaign manager Will Mortenson said.

“Early voting is huge in South Dakota,” Mortenson said in a statement. “A vote cast for Dusty on Sept. 27 is a vote we don’t have to chase through Election Day. It allows us to focus on folks who haven’t got the chance to know Dusty yet.”

The campaign for Johnson’s Democratic opponent, Tim Bjorkman, is using calls, texts, emails and social media to promote early voting, campaign spokesman Tom Lawrence said.

“We’re encouraging voters to start the process on Friday, and we’re expecting a good response,” Lawrence said. “I think it’s important to start out the election on Nov. 6 with some votes in the bank.”

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Follow James Nord on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jvnord

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