In September of 2013, then-state-Sen. Shantel Krebs, a Republican, announced she would run for South Dakota secretary of state, challenging the incumbent, Jason Gant, also a Republican.
Gant soon declared he would not seek re-election.
Krebs then was challenged by another Republican for the party's nomination for secretary of state, but Republicans at their 2014 convention chose Krebs as their nominee.
Although she easily won the general election, when she took office on Jan. 2, she found what she called a "crisis situation": Business filings and permit applications were far behind schedule, and new mail was piling up at the rate of 400 pieces per day.
Krebs said she reformed the office, and recently declared, "I'm confident we're turning it around."
In addition to catching up to the backlog of paperwork, she has undertaken such tasks as the restoring of public access to older business records and the promoting of voter registration.
A veteran legislator before she became secretary of state, Krebs recently sat with a Journal reporter to answer questions about her work.
We've had complaints arise over possibly illegal signature collections by petitioners. Should we expect more of this behavior? Who is responsible for enforcing the law, and how should it be enforced?
In order to be a circulator and ballot petitioner asking for signatures, they must be a resident of South Dakota and at least 18 years of age. They do not have to be registered to vote in the state of South Dakota.
If an individual or citizen has a concern that they're from out of state and not a citizen of South Dakota, a formal affidavit would be filed with local law enforcement or the (South Dakota) Attorney General's office. That would be a formal complaint, meaning a signed affidavit saying that this is the complaint or concern the citizen has.
Our office has made a concerted effort by communicating with circulators and the ballot sponsors by sending them email updates and reminders about what is required by state statues, what is allowed and not allowed by state law.
Over the course of the last six to eight weeks, the media has been made aware of those concerns, and I think citizens have been educated to ask if the petitioner is a citizen and to see the ballot and petition.
We've also communicated that the circulator must be paid per hour, not per signature. It's against state law to pay by signature. I think that's really tamped it down. I'm not hearing the continuous complaints, I'm not hearing calls and concerns about that. I feel we've done the appropriate job.
More than a dozen states allow voters to register on election day. Why don't we adopt that here?
It's not something I've heard a big outcry of concern or requests over, but it boils down to our system, which doesn't allow same-day registration. Our system ensures the safety and integrity of the voter-registration process.
We stop 15 days prior (to an election) for voter registration, and the process goes through a nightly background check that includes a felony background check with UJS (Unified Judicial System), social services for a review on death certificates, and a check that make sure they are a citizen of South Dakota, and through driver's licensing check as well.
Our system wouldn't be able to move to a same-day registration and complete those background checks.
Why do South Dakota voters have to apply to vote absentee? Why can't they just get an absentee ballot and vote without applying?
We don't have early voting in South Dakota, and the media tends to confuse early voting with absentee voting. We only have in-person absentee voting.
You can go down to your county auditor's office and request to vote absentee. You can apply through the mail or as a military person request to vote absentee and have the ballot sent to you that way.
It's that, not early voting, which means that you'd have to have every precinct open, whereas here you just need your county auditor's office. If you had state statute for early voting, 46 days prior, every precinct would have to be open, and that would be a significant cost to be able to manage 45 days of early voting.
How do you grade your first few months in office? What are your successes, and what could you do better?
I'm very happy with what we've done in the short time frame that we've had. I responded to my constituents. My constituents told me that we needed to have turnarounds in our business filings done quicker, we needed to have our UCCs (financing records) become current. They were significantly behind, up to 7 weeks, and we are now within the 3- to 5-day business turnaround time as required by state statute, and that's exactly what I heard on the campaign trail.
I heard on the campaign trail that we needed to improve our customer service. Our first order of business was making sure that responses to questions from our auditors in our business community was within the same business day or within 24 hours.
Based on what I talked about on the campaign trail, customer service and making sure things are current, I'm doing exactly what my constituents expected me to do and hired me to do.
I also want to add that I've generated another $1.5 million to the state general funds by being efficient. Our office has now generated $7.5 million to the state general fund, in the previous administration it was $5.9 to $6 million. So in six months, that's significant to tell the taxpayer that I've made them more money that allows the Legislature to appropriate more money in areas of concern.
As for things to improve on, I always have goals, and my goals moving forward are to have online business filings done by next July.
You've pledged to make South Dakota another capital for business incorporations like Delaware. What have you accomplished toward that end?
The first order of business was making sure we were current, which is exactly what I wanted to do. No. 2 and 3 are to make sure by next July that we are online and able to file for new corporations online.
Right now they cannot, and I want to be able to compete with Delaware to have that turnaround time within the same day or within 24 hours for a business to be able to file and get their documents back so they can be up and running within 24 hours.