Sioux Falls – Senate Republicans in Pierre advanced a bill out of the Senate State Affairs committee today that would limit the period of time for absentee voting from 48 days prior to the election to 29 days prior to the election for the general public except for South Dakotans abroad.
Testifying during the committee in support of his own bill, Senator Tim Begalka – Dist. 4 said, “48 days gives [constituents] a false sense of urgency. I’ve had people tell me they wish they wouldn’t have done it. They found something else out in which they wouldn’t have voted earlier. Of course, that could happen the day before election day too.”
Carrie Gonsor, representing the South Dakota Association of County Officials, said this bill would harm County Auditors and create a two class system of voters.
She noted that Pennington County alone would have to send out 15,000 absentee ballots in 29 days – four of which are over the weekend. She continued, “Sending out absentee ballots in that number becomes an unreasonable expectation because of the sheer number of absentee ballots that have been requested.”
This bill, she said, creates two classes of voters for the first time. “In the past … all policy setters have tried to maintain the same rules for all voters. To develop a class of voters that are distinguished from a secondary class of voters sends the wrong message.”
The bill was approved by the Senate State Affairs committee on a party line vote.
Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party responded, “In another act of pure duplicity, Republicans have managed to ignore the county officials who conduct elections and make it more difficult for the public to vote. They recognize, as I do, that the more South Dakotans who vote, the less likely Republicans are to win elections. This is partisan politics plain and simple.”
Chairman Nesselhuf continued, “Claiming a ‘false sense of urgency’ to restrict the amount of time South Dakota’s residents can vote absentee shows how little some Republicans like Senator Begalka trust the will of the voters. His bill will only restrict the amount of freedom voters have to choose their elected officials.
“It’s time someone asks the Republicans when they plan to start trusting local officials and local voters in real action rather than empty rhetoric.”