Turnout has improved for the general election in a satellite voting center in Pine Ridge that attracted just 46 voters in the six weeks leading up to the June primary.

By Monday afternoon, however, more than 300 people had voted early for the general election in the satellite office staffed by the Fall River County Auditor’s Office. Auditor Sue Ganje said Monday that there would be additional votes before the office closes at 3 p.m. today.

"It's been a little slow at times, but we've been having a pretty good turnout down there," Ganje said. "We've had lots of people say they appreciated it."

The voting center in Pine Ridge was staffed by two employees from Ganje's office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the six-week early voting period for the general election. Language aides who speak Lakota also were available to help communicate with Oglala Tribe members who sought that assistance.

"I think the people who came in truly enjoyed talking to those individuals," Ganje said. "I think they've helped some voters, or at least explained the process and answered questions."

Ganje said she believed it comforted some voters just to know there was a Lakota speaker present and willing to help.

The satellite office was required for the full six-week early voting period because of a federal court challenge. Shannon County doesn't have a courthouse, so Fall River County contracts for election services.

Without the satellite office, Shannon County residents — most of them Native Americans — who wanted to vote early would have had to get mail-in ballots or travel to Hot Springs to vote in person

Ganje said she was heartened to see turnout much improved from the sparse showing prior to the June primary.

"It's looking up a bit," she said.

But it didn't quite match the early-voting total from the 2010 general election, when more than 400 took advantage of the option in Pine Ridge.

Ganje said there seemed to be more excitement two years ago. That might have been tied to the governor's race and a high-profile battle between incumbent Democratic Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin and Republican challenger Kristi Noem, who won that race.

"We just don't seem to have that much excitement going right now," Ganje said.

Contact Kevin Woster at 394-8413 or kevin.woster@rapidcityjournal.com

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