Anyone with knowledge of the logistics of holding a modern election knows it's far more complicated then just counting check marks in boxes.
In reality, it's no simple feat, requiring voters to register in advance, demanding that poll workers understand and implement proper procedures, and that voters then fill in their ballots correctly (you'd be surprised how often voters make silly errors.)
Sometimes, things go wrong in the process. For multiple examples, look no further than Florida, which is infamous not only for the "hanging chads" that left the 2000 presidential election hanging in the balance, but also for a failed experiment in touch-screen voting. In some cases, touch-screens malfunctioned, so people had no idea which race they were actually voting in.
After the 2000s, election officials in that state moved away from paper-punch ballots and the touch-screen voting that were a dismal failure. After the mistakes, it was clear that voters had lost faith in the voting process, and something needed to be done, and improvements ultimately were made.
No one is asserting that the mix-ups in South Dakota on Tuesday come close to creating that level of uncertainty or loss of voter confidence.
And yet, when two poll workers arrived late in Shannon County, it stalled voting there and subsequently all state results were delayed by an hour. Results were came late in the state's two most-populous counties — in Minnehaha by half a day, and in Pennington by about two hours — due to difficulty with new, more sensitive ballot machines that cost $100,000 each.
Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson last week candidly acknowledged the errors that were made, and promised that she and her staff have fixed the problems. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Jason Gant said that he and local auditors will discuss the issues to be sure the mistakes are not repeated.
That's good news, and we compliment election officials for being up front and honest about the troubles — really the only way to begin a process of improvement.
And we urge more training, and more testing, to be sure that everyone in the process knows their role and conducts themselves with integrity. Few things are more important that holding free and fair elections. While voters may excuse one set of mishaps, it won't take many more mistakes before confidence in the election process wanes.
Those votes, of course, empower our elected officials by way of the understanding that they truly were backed by the electorate, and not appointed through default or by more sinister means. And that sense of trust we place in them not only allows them to make policy on our behalf, but gives us as voters the right to cast them from office if they prove unworthy of our faith.