Among the topics on which South Dakota is seeing significant shifts under Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is satellite voting. This summer Krebs established a panel known as the HAVA — for Help America Vote Act — grant board. She did it with approval from the state Board of Elections. The purpose of the board is to oversee distribution and use of money at the county level from the federal HAVA program for properly-run elections. Krebs selected four county auditors who form the core of the HAVA grant board. They are Democrats Jerry Schwarting of Mellette County and Bobbi Janke of Lake County and Republicans Bob Litz of Minnehaha County and Sheila Hagemann of Turner County. Among the goals for HAVA is reducing barriers to voting. To that end, the HAVA board has Denise DeJong of Yankton as a representative for people with disabilities and David Reiss from the state Department of Tribal Relations. Chairing the panel is Kristin Kellar, the new HAVA coordinator in Krebs’ office.
The HAVA board meets Monday morning to discuss the parameters to be used for making grants. A large portion of the board’s work in the months and years ahead will be further development of satellite voting centers in South Dakota. These are offices, opened in advance of elections, where people can obtain ballots and cast absentee votes. They serve as satellites of county courthouses for the limited purpose of working with voters. So far in South Dakota the satellite centers target American Indian populations who live in counties that rely on neighboring counties for election services because they don’t operate their own courthouses, such as Todd and Oglala Lakota; and places where there are clusters of American Indian people who live considerable distance from county courthouses but don’t have public transportation to travel to the courthouses. The HAVA board on Monday will discuss parameters to be used for providing grants for satellite-voting centers. (See page 2 of the HAVA parameters document.)
Much of the work for Krebs and her staff during their first 10 months in office has been repairing, restoring and re-establishing services and relationships that suffered damage during her predecessor’s four years. Rather than resist the concept of satellite voting, Krebs and her deputy for election services, Kea Warne, are cooperating by working to find an acceptable approach, such as one center per county in places where poverty and distance criteria are met. Absentee ballots will remain available by mail throughout South Dakota, but more counties probably will have satellite centers for in-person absentee voting. The federal HAVA aid will continue to help pay for those centers. The challenge down the road could be whether some counties would want more than one center.