SD Secretary of State expects increase in midterm voter turnout
Voters line up to cast early ballots on Nov. 4, 2022, at the Minnehaha County Courthouse in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
Between 65-70% of South Dakota registered voters are expected to cast a ballot in the 2022 election, said Sec. of State Steve Barnett.
That’s a notable increase compared to the last two midterm elections in South Dakota, where 2014 saw a 54% voter turnout and 2018 saw 65%. The 2020 election was an outlier, considering the presidential election, the COVID-19 pandemic and a significant increase in absentee voting. That election had a 73.88% voter turnout.
“I think that the U.S. Senate and House races, gubernatorial race and the two ballot questions (concerning medical marijuana and Medicaid expansion) will push a lot of people out when the general turnout is not as big,” Barnett said.
Over 144,300 absentee ballots have been cast – in-person, military or mailed in – ahead of the 2022 election, according to Nov. 4 data from the Secretary of State’s Office. That’s on track for “normal” midterm absentee numbers. With 597,148 voters registered in South Dakota, that’s 24% voter turnout for absentee ballots alone.
Absentee ballots accounted for 26% of the ballots cast in the 2018 election and 51% in the 2020 election.
Over 4,000 Brown County residents have cast absentee ballots as of Nov. 4, Brown County Auditor Lynn Heupel said. The county reported 5,223 absentee ballots in the 2018 election.
“We’re on track to meet that number,” Heupel said.
Minnehaha is “very busy” handling absentee ballots in the days leading up to the election.
Auditor Ben Kyte expects to see about 20,000 absentee ballots, over half of which so far were cast in-person. With about 130,000 active voters in Minnehaha County, absentee ballots count for a significant portion of the votes.
“We’re going to have a good turnout of 60-70% voters this year,” Kyte said. “A lot of that will be driven by what’s on the ballot and competitive races. We’ll be well into the early morning when we finish counting ballots – probably 2, 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning.”
The act of counting certain ballots was the subject of a legal challenge in Minnehaha County this week. Absentee ballots are the focus of the late-stage lawsuit, which seeks to prevent Kyte’s office from opening them “until such time as the voter’s signed statement, signature and residence in the State of South Dakota is confirmed.”
The suit was filed on Thursday by Minnehaha County residents Vicky Buhr and Gary Meyer. A judge denied the pair’s request for immediate order to stop the count on Friday afternoon.
Minnehaha County has added 5,000 new voters since the beginning of 2022, said Kyte. Registered voters in South Dakota can check their precinct location and sample ballot before they head to the polls, Barnett said, which is especially important considering redistricting and the lengthy ballots across the state. In Sioux Falls alone the ballot is 30 questions long.
Barnett encourages voters to educate themselves and prepare themselves by also looking at election information on the Secretary of State’s website answering questions and covering pros and cons of this year’s ballot questions. Voters should also visit their respective district candidates’ websites to learn their core values.
“Everybody should spend some time educating themselves,” Kyte said. “They have that responsibility as citizens to do research of who the candidates are in addition to their responsibility of voting.”
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