John Hult

John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

(Getty Images)

Report: South Dakota legislative redistricting more fair to Native Americans 

By: - October 11, 2023

Grouping Native American voters together earned South Dakota a better-than-average score from a voting rights watchdog group. Common Cause, a nonprofit organization, released a state-by-state scorecard on Wednesday, ranking states based on the way they redrew congressional and state legislative districts following the 2020 U.S. census. South Dakota only adjusts legislative districts, because the entire […]

A May 2023 aerial view of Deadwood. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight, via EcoFlight)

Housing board awards $48 million more in infrastructure grants

By: - October 10, 2023

Teachers in Pine Ridge, service members at Ellsworth Air Force Base and thousands of Sioux Falls residents are among the beneficiaries of about $48 million in housing grants awarded Tuesday. The South Dakota Housing Development Authority sent the money to 20 separate projects to help developers pay for infrastructure like streets, water and sewer lines. […]

DakotaPost, a mailbox service in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Auditors: New voter residency rules difficult to manage for local election officials

By: - October 8, 2023

The top election official in South Dakota’s largest county says a law passed last winter that requires all voters to live in the state for 30 days has turned into a headache for her office. Some full-time travelers or out-of-state residents without a home in Minnehaha County wind up on its voter rolls through automatic registration […]

The site selected for the new South Dakota State Penitentiary in Lincoln County. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

State’s selection of prison site upsets Lincoln County neighbors

By: - October 6, 2023

The multimillion-dollar replacement for the South Dakota State Penitentiary is set to appear on farm ground south of Harrisburg in Lincoln County.  County commissioners have known that the site was under consideration for at least six weeks. Some state lawmakers who represent the area have known for longer. Sarah Ulmer, who lives half a mile […]

K's Qwik Stop in Wagner, SD. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Grandmother seeks answers after Taser use against 12-year-old Native American girl

By: - October 5, 2023

WAGNER — A grandmother wants answers after a video showing a Wagner police officer using a Taser on her 12-year-old granddaughter circulated online. The Wagner Police Department has offered no details on the situation in the video, which was shared at 5:45 a.m. on Sept. 20 and has now been viewed more than 14,000 times […]

Brown County Auditor Lynn Heupel explains how the tabulator machine works to count election ballots in November 2022. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Price tag for post-election audits could be larger than lawmaker expectations

By: - September 29, 2023

The cost to conduct post-election audits in South Dakota could vastly exceed an estimate calculated for lawmakers earlier this year, according to a survey of county auditors. Or it won’t; neither the Secretary of State’s Office nor county auditors are sure. South Dakota’s Board of Elections signed off this week on most of the rules […]

The South Dakota Secretary of State's Office in Pierre. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Post-election audit rules spark debate on voter intent

By: - September 27, 2023

The perceived daylight between the terms “manual count” and “hand count” proved contentious during discussions of post-election audit rules that inched closer to implementation on Wednesday in Pierre. The rules represent South Dakota’s first foray into post-election audits, which are routinely done in most states. Creating such an audit process was a key campaign issue […]

The minimum security center of the South Dakota State Penitentiary in Sioux Falls, pictured on Feb. 16, 2023. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

State to pay inmate in federal excessive force lawsuit

By: - September 26, 2023

The state of South Dakota will pay $6,000 to an inmate who represented himself in a lawsuit over his assault by a correctional officer in 2022. The settlement, filed this week in federal court, comes on the heels of a state-level trial at which a jury convicted the officer of simple assault. Shawn Albrecht was […]

The Brown County Courthouse is located in Aberdeen and is connected to other county offices, such as the Auditor's Office and the Brown County Jail. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Booze tax should help pay county legal bills, state senator says

By: - September 25, 2023

Liquor, beer and wine might offer relief to counties stuck paying for alcohol’s impact on public safety, if a recommendation from a public defense task force becomes law. Sen. Jim Mehlhaff, R-Pierre, would like to see the state dedicate its half of the $18 million collected in alcohol taxes to finance the creation and operation […]

Brendan Johnson, head of the business litigation group for Robins Kaplan and former U.S. attorney for South Dakota. (Courtesy of Robins Kaplan)

Q&A: Why Brendan Johnson chose courtrooms over politics

By: - September 24, 2023

Sioux Falls lawyer Brendan Johnson has a last name that carries a lot of weight in South Dakota political circles. His father, Tim Johnson, was the last Democrat to serve in any statewide elected office from the now-solidly red state. The elder Johnson, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1997 […]

Shelly Stutson of Sioux Falls, right, talks about her all-electric Subaru Soltera at an EV Expo on Sept. 19, 2023, in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

South Dakota-led poll finds alignment of rural, urban opinions on electric vehicles

By: - September 22, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — Around half of the rural Americans served by electric cooperatives expect less reliable service and higher bills because of electric vehicles. Even so, about half would consider buying an EV the next time they need a new vehicle. Those opinions came from Paulsen Marketing in Sioux Falls, which conducted a nationwide poll […]

Supporters tour Panther Cubs Academy in Platte during a fundraiser weekend. (Courtesy photo)

Child care shortage drives construction contractor to create his own solution

By: - September 17, 2023

Platte has been good to Tyler Samuelson and his family.  Over the past 15 years, the owner of Summit Contracting has seen his family’s business grow into the largest employer in the south-central South Dakota town.  Lately, Platte’s meager 1,300 population has become a problem for the growing business, which manufactures “anything on the farm […]